Do We Have a Problem, Pal?

Whatever the problem is, there's always a solution. Just ask these guys. But sometimes, the wrong solution, or the wrong method, can only make the problem even worse. Just don't tell these guys. Hopefully this simple road map to problem solving--one that I learned during one of the many workshops at last month's IDEA World Health & Fitness Convention--will help bring you closer to a solution instead of disaster.

  1. Identify the Problem

"Necessity is the Mother of Ingenuity", but most times we don't see the necessity because it seems so insignificant that we take it for granted. Take for example Starbucks vs Dunkin Donuts. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz saw the great potential in a coffee shop that sells more than just coffee and donuts. He saw the necessity of creating a welcoming space for his customers, and offering greater dining and beverage options. Schultz was not content with the "grab-n-go" business model of selling a thousand donuts and cups of coffee before 8am. He wanted to enhance his customers' breakfast experience.

2. Do Your Research

Schultz drew inspiration from the tiny cafes he frequented during a business trip to Milan, Italy. He knew that the espresso beverages that Starbucks will eventually be renowned for is costlier and more cumbersome to make than Dunkin Donuts' drip coffee, and the cost of both coffee and labor will naturally trickle down to the customers. He needed to find a way for the average customer to enjoy the coffee drinking experience, enough to entice them to not only pay more for expensive drinks, but to come back day after day after day. Starbucks must become more than a coffee store; it became a coffee shop.

3. Design a Plan

Now that you've identified the problem and have done the research, it's time to put together a plan. Start by treating your plan as a mission. You need a clear vision of the solution and commit to it. Next step is to throw ideas around. They don't all have to work right away, and you can sort them out as you're putting the pieces of your plan together. The more ideas you have, the more tools you'll have in your hands to arrive at a solution. Once you think you have collected all these great ideas, perform a SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). Find out what works and what can help the ones that don't. Document your progress, either in writing or recording. That way you can repeat the correct steps the next time you encounter a similar problem, and of course learn from your mistakes and missteps. If needed, build a team with well-defined and organized roles, who more or less share the same vision of the mission. Work your contacts. There's always that uncle or buddy who knows somebody who knows somebody. Hire a professional. Somethings are better left to the wise guys, capiche?

4. Execute

Once you have a clear sight of the target, it's time to pull the trigger. But don't expect hitting the bullseye right away; you may need to reload, retrace your steps and make adjustments multiple times. In fact, you should always expect pitfalls in your quest for the solution, and you must have a backup plan when your plan doesn't work right away. If your plan for a solution is long term, the process may take longer than expected. Make use of that time by coming up with other plans--or identifying other problems that can be planned for and solved. And unless you're stuck on an island or hanging from a cliff, enjoy the ride! Take the whole project seriously, learn from your mistakes, celebrate the victories and take pride in your accomplishment.

**Source credit: "Built For Success" by Pete Holman, IDEAWorld Conference, Las Vegas, NV July 14, 2022**