Recently, I was at my bank branch taking care of some important business. While banks go to great effort and expense to protect the privacy of your personal and financial information, there is little distance between customer service representatives in a bank branch so conversations on either side of you can be heard very easily unless conducted in a whisper. It would have been hard not to hear the man on my right as he seemed increasingly angry and upset at the fact that his once orderly, abundant and prosperous financial life was now in a tangled mess of pending unpaid invoices, overdrawn accounts and little or no cash reserves. He seemed to be a valued and longstanding customer as shown by the focused attention and authentic empathy shown by the people from the bank who were listening and offering him a number of different solutions to his problem. This man’s life, business and personal identity had definitely slid off of a glorious peak and into an uncertain valley. As far as he was concerned, he was trapped with no way out and life and business as he had known it was a distant memory. He was looking forward to long years of financial pain and hardship. It was difficult not to stop what I was doing and feel genuinely sorry for him and his plight. When I finished my business, I told him that I would pray from him and he looked at me and said in exasperation: “It will take a miracle to solve this”. He was the inspiration for this post as I saw him as being caught in problem paralysis rather than allowing the people at the bank to pull him into solution synthesis.
We encounter problems both big and small every day. Some people see them as challenges while others see them as opportunities. People who welcome problem paralysis are procrastinators who want to stay in problem paralysis as long as possible as they see the problem as protection against having to move forward to find a solution. They can use the problem as an excuse to not do work that they either do not want to do or know how to do. Problem paralysis and its blame game of bullying, manipulating and pointing fingers can be extremely costly in time, money and energy to your life, career or business. Those people who are action-oriented see problem paralysis as a form of punishment as it keeps them trapped in a cycle of inertia and inaction. They can see the way forward and want to get there as soon as possible. Problem paralysis can be like being lost in a maze and not noticing that the way out is right in front of you in the form of solution synthesis.
Solution synthesis can seem like the least favourable option to people who are too proud to ask for help or admit they need help with a problem. For people who are proactive, positive, progressive and productive, solution synthesis is the most favourable option as they are comfortable asking for help and admitting they need help. They are firm believers in the old saying that “two heads are better than one” and can immediately recognize and appreciate the power and advantage of collaboration, connection, cooperation and communication in synthesizing the best ideas to solve the most complex and consistent problems that occur in businesses. People who move quickly from problem paralysis to solution synthesis also rise rapidly in the ranks of organizations as they are seen as action-oriented, solutions-focused leaders who get things done and make things happen.
If you want to be happy, productive and successful, it’s time to shift your focus from problem paralysis to solution synthesis in your life, career and business.