For the problem solvers of the world, we are in search of that “Eureka” moment, that moment of clarity and sheer genius, mixed with a bit of brilliant insanity. It means “Aha” or “I have found it!”, and famously attributed to the Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes, a story which some claim to be fictional.
In the startup world, there is no shortage of innovators and problem solvers. Designing the future has been democratized, with unlimited possibilities to have a shot at creating a better world. Having been in the field of Customer and Employee Experience for over 15 years at satisFIND, we study and analyze behavior and its outcomes which impact the workplace. We connect insights from data to workplace culture, leadership mindsets, and which skills were present and which ones were lacking. What we have learned is that the art and science of problem solving remains to be a scarce resource in many organizations.
We found the most important characteristics of an excellent problem solver:
To understand these further, we need to talk about the context of the kind of problems to be solved. It is through innovation that an organization can escape competition, and remain crisis-proof. Imagine leading the disruption of your own industry through innovation, instead of waiting to be disrupted. There are enough lessons from our recent history about how brands and businesses met extinction as a result of disruption.
Where do we begin?
Innovation Thought Leader, Hitendra Patel explained it in his 2015 TEDx Talk on ‘Democratizing Innovation’. He asked, how do we innovate faster? How can we get better at getting ideas and implement them? We all marvel at Steve Jobs’ instinctive and ‘magical’ approach at creating products we can’t do without today. Patel shared in his talk how Steve Jobs saw innovation, which gives us a glimpse of the man’s genius.
“Innovation is those who are able to see the dots faster and be able to connect them to be able to see the picture — the big picture — and take action on that.” — Steve Jobs
There it is. It’s about seeing the “dots”. The bigger question is, ‘how do we find these dots?’ The answer goes back to one of the characteristics of problem solvers, ‘Insighting’. Search for it online, and the definition reads, as a skill that gives one the power to see into a complex situation, gaining an accurate and deep understanding of it.
It’s a known and established process in brand marketing and research, Consumer Insighting is the foundation of all the successful brands and products. However, outside of these two fields, not much is known on how it can be applied. It is what sparks hypotheses to be formed. We can develop this by learning to ask unbiased open-ended questions with thoughtfulness, and the deliberate intent to learn. When you have mastered insighting, it allows you to practice Critical Thinking, the next important characteristic of problem solvers.
Having these two skills make all the difference. Critical Thinking can be assessed, it’s either one has it or not. Can we develop this skill? Yes, but it requires a mindset of acceptance that our biases may not be correct all along. This ability to self-reflect with Empathy balanced with Openness is perhaps the barrier why we cannot find more critical thinkers in the world today.
How do we find Critical Thinking individuals? They are rational thinkers, naturally curious about the world, and open-minded to understand views different from their own. They have the ability to reflect on their own beliefs, and find themselves able to have a conversation with someone from an opposing side. This is why Empathy is much required. Empathy is not sympathy, nor is it being in agreement with another person’s viewpoint, but it is that one value that unlocks the humanity in us to connect meaningfully with another human being. While we may not share what they feel or believe in, we are able to listen, connect and understand why they feel, think, and act a certain way. What we have learned at satisFIND is that understanding the true meaning of Empathy is often the barrier. When people do not have clarity on its meaning, it makes it harder to practice it daily. Instead, we find people who believe they are empathetic, when they really are not.
Here is one effective way to evaluate if one is a Critical Thinker. Ask them a challenging open-ended question related to their work. There are 3 possible responses that will give you an insight to their thought process and values:
The best minds make finding that “Eureka” moment look easy, but in reality, it’s time spent finding the dots, connecting them and accepting where they could have gone wrong. The innovator keeps reconnecting the dots until the outcome is reached and the solution is found. If you think it’s that simple, and artificial intelligence can give anyone the unfair advantage, then you missed the whole point. The problem solvers the world needs today are the people whose humanity allow them to see the dots, the rest of the world continue to ignore.
Founder and Trust Experience Researcher at satisFIND