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04 April 2009

Don't Simply Provide the Solution. Describe the Solution.

It was fairly warm out the other day so I pulled out the kids bikes and started to fix them.

As I did I realized there are two ways to solve a problem: One is to provide the solution and the other is to describe the solution.

Provide the Solution
This is fairly simple and straightforward. When a problem arises, you fix it. Even if it's someone else's problem, you fix it. You don't ask for help or pull someone else in to see how you fixed the problem. You simply fix it.

Describe the Solution
In this scenario, you still fix the problem, but as you do, you describe what you are doing to someone else. It could be the person with the problem. It could be someone that could fix the problem with you (or for you) in the future. Either way, you are capitalizing on a teaching moment rather than just solving the problem.

Disclaimer: In both scenarios above you are solving the problem because the other person is either too young to solve it themselves or because the other person is incapable of resolving the problem on their own with the skills/knowledge they have. If the person is capable of resolving the problem, by all means teach them how and allow them to become self sufficient. Enabling is NOT helpful behavior.
I find with my kids I am constantly doing things for them and describing what I'm doing at the same time. When I was fixing their bikes I described why full tires were more beneficial than flat tires. I explained the proper height for a bike seat so your legs fit the pedals right. And I even went over the proper use of brakes so that they wouldn't grab the front brake with all their might someday and go over their handlebars.

But it occurred to me that I didn't have to do it that way. I could have told the kids to go play and then fixed the bikes without distraction. But what a waste of an opportunity!

To bring it full circle I started asking myself the same thing at work. Am I just fixing problems that arise or am I taking opportunities to describe the process? Even if it might be faster to fix it myself, would it be more beneficial to describe the process to the person with the problem? Would it help to train someone so there would be two people in the future capable of resolving the problem?

In the future when you face problems, try thinking about them in this way. You just might find your problems becoming opportunities for growth in others.