When should we change lenses?


There are at least two problems with how we go about solving problems.

The first is we approach them from our perspective – using the set of strategies, models, expectations, biases, experience and tactics that we have built up over time.

The second is our first attempt to come up with a a solution tends to narrow our thinking very quickly, as we look for patterns, evidence and reasoning to support that solution while forgetting about the rest of the options out there.

It is very hard to stop doing either of these things – it’s an approach we’re comfortable with and when we are faced with a problem – whether it’s doing some DIY or fixing a failing healthcare programme – we tend to fall back on our default programming.

So, can we change this or are we stuck with the way things are?

One technique that may help is problem restatement.

We restate the problem by taking the time to write out the problem again in as many ways as we can think of.

For example, perhaps we have a difference of opinion with someone at work on an issue.

It’s easy to make the fundamental attribution error – saying the problem is that person is rubbish because of who they are as a person rather than the situation they are in at the moment.

But, what if we tried to look differently and restated the problem.

We might be able to use a selection of lenses.

The reverse lens tries to look at the situation from the other person’s point of view.

What would they say about us and the situation and how would they justify their approach – and is there any merit in what they are saying?

The long lens helps us look at things with a longer term perspective.

Will this issue matter in a week, a month or a year?

The wide lens looks that the situation in context.

How does this issue affect everything else?

If it went the wrong way would the consequences be significant or not, and so how important is it in the wider scheme of things?

Restating the problem is one way to increase our chances of getting a good outcome.

As Charles Kettering said – a problem well stated is a problem half solved.

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