Why you should stop looking for whys

2018. July 31.

“It’s a typical example of evolutionary and cultural imprinting that we set out to solve problems by trying to identify the causes, and then trying to remove them,” points out Dávid Nádas, Codecool’s soft skill expert. But what works great in medicine or coding may fail miserably in other areas of life. Little wonder that […]

“It’s a typical example of evolutionary and cultural imprinting that we set out to solve problems by trying to identify the causes, and then trying to remove them,” points out Dávid Nádas, Codecool’s soft skill expert. But what works great in medicine or coding may fail miserably in other areas of life. Little wonder that according to a survey by Bloomberg, creative problem-solving skills are currently the most in demand in the American job market. The main problem, however, often lies in the problem-focused approach itself.

Who hasn’t been to a meeting that turned into a long ranting session, leading you further from the solution and deeper into confusion? But being fixated on problems doesn’t only waste time. All the negative emotions that build up inside the team will also kill motivation and creativity.

And that’s where the solution-focused approach comes to the rescue. It has its roots in an American therapeutic methodology from the 70s: Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, having analysed hundreds of hours of therapy sessions, found that concentrating on the future and possible solutions is faster and more efficient in most cases than slicing and dicing the issue. How come? Because the solution simply “doesn’t care where the problem came from”. The solution-focused approach can work wonders in a wide range of areas, not just psychology: today, it’s used successfully, for example, by teachers, coaches, organizational developers and social workers. Here are four tips from Dávid about how to build this mindset into your company culture so instead of looking for whys, the team throw themselves into finding solutions.

 

See the vision

 

A survey showed that only 40% of employees in the U.S. knew about their company’s goals, strategies and tactics. But you can only get the most out of a team if every member feels that their work matters and there’s a sense of purpose. Inspired employees are three times more productive than dissatisfied ones, and more than twice as productive as those who are simply satisfied. “As the word ‘vision’ suggests, ‘seeing’ is crucial. To be motivated, you need to envisage the fantastic results that are worth all the effort,” Dávid recommends. Just like feedback, vision is only useful if it’s detailed and can be translated into behaviour, not just a catchy slogan from the company website. Once you’ve come up with a concrete, desired future state, it’s a good idea to think about what part of it would bring the most noticeable change and could be implemented straight away. And start with that. It’s the little triumphs that will give you the push to achieve the bigger future goals.  


Criticize with a solution

Rest assured: the time will never come when everybody agrees on everything. And there’s nothing wrong with that. What matters is how you disagree. Especially because one third of people admittedly don’t work as hard after receiving criticism. “At Codecool, one of the ground rules is that if you criticize something, a simple ‘I don’t like it’ just won’t cut it. You have to offer another solution: tell us what should be changed so you also get on board with the idea,” Dávid says. This trains your brain to start thinking about alternative solutions besides identifying problems. And of course, it also helps the team avoid falling into a negative spiral.

Build on strengths

Reprogram yourself: instead of discussing challenges and what’s not working yet again at the weekly status meeting, talk about what your team is good at, the things you’ve already accomplished and how you’ve got there. It’s very important to notice the team’s and the individual members’ strengths, and reward them for it, then build on these to bring about further changes. The thought that you excel in something and you’re on track to your goals doesn’t just create a positive atmosphere but will boost engagement and give an extra energy kick to the team so it will be easier to dive into bigger tasks.

Make space for individual solutions

If anyone can initiate change within the team, it will jack up motivation and create a sense of ownership. At Codecool, this is done within the framework of the so-called advice process.

Wanna change something? Draft a proposal, ask everyone affected by it and consult the experts, and then, taking their feedback into consideration, make your decision. “It’s important to understand that this doesn’t mean democracy. Instead, it’s all about individual ownership: I’m the one who wants the change, I’m bringing the solution, with the others’ help. Not only does this speed up the decision-making process but strengthens engagement and cooperation,”  Dávid explains.