Selling Solutions vs Solving Problems

so a lot of the time when we first interact with people and ask them to come up with problems that they want to solve they often name a solution because they have a preset idea of the solution and hence they never really have thought through to the problem to which this that was a solution so I teach dozens and dozens of students and every year and one of the exercises we have them do is try and formulate a solution to a policy problem so we do the exercise of start by writing down the problem what is the problem that you’re trying to solve then we do the exercise of write down one solution to your problem that’s easy they all can write down one solution to their problem and then comes the hard part of the exercise that differentiates whether you’ve really just written down a problem or written down a solution which is write down three other solutions to your problem so then I say okay now write down other than the solution have written down write down option a option B and option C oftentimes they can’t do this why can’t they do this they can’t do this because they have essentially drawn to title link between the problem and the solution so for instance they’ll say that my problem is that I have a lack of trained teachers and therefore the solution is to train teachers and then if you think well what are the alternative options to solving my problem of lacking trained teachers you realize well there aren’t any other solutions if I have defined my problem as the lack of trained teachers there aren’t any other solutions training teachers because I defined my problem as the lack of my solution which means I’m really not open to anything other than business as usual and doing the mimic thing now if we said wait a second you really had a deeper problem hiding somewhere which is you had inadequate student learning and the reason you wanted trained teachers was that you didn’t have enough you weren’t getting the student learning you thought you could get and hence now I’ve pushed my problem away from my solution to where now if I frame the problem as lack of student learning I can have lots of different ways of imagining solving this problem so our rule of thumb is if you can’t imagine at least three alternative solutions to your problem you don’t have a problem you have formulated a solution as a problem and if you start from the formulation of your problem is your lack of your solution you can never really be creative enough to start to dig down deep enough to get to where you can solve the problem you really have

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