Are you problem solving, or creating?

I wrote the Consultant’s Handbook 10 years ago in support of the Consulting Skills Workshop I taught for corporate consultancy firms. .

A lot of words are bandied about in consultancy and it’s important that we make distinctions between them. One of the conversations we’d have during those workshops was about creativity, problem-solving, and creating.

I’d frame the session with an extract from the handbook:

There is a profound difference between problem solving and creating. Problem solving is taking action to have something go away – the problem. Creating is taking action to have something come into being – the creation. Most of us have been raised in the tradition of problem solving and have little real exposure to the creative process.

Problem solvers propose elaborate schemes to define the problem, generate alternative solutions and put forward their best solutions into action.

If the process is successful, you might have eliminated the problem you are solving. But what you do not have is the presence of the result you want to create.

Robert Fritz ~ The path of least resistance.

Then we’d explore the question: Are you problem solving, or creating? 

Some interesting ideas came out of those conversations.

  1. Client’s systems are often optimised to support the very problems they are trying to solve. Question: “What desired state is the system currently optimised to get?”
  2. Client systems are not broken. They just don’t deliver the outcomes the client wants.  Question: “Where do my clients want to get to?”
  3. Often our clients are so focused on their day-to-day business problems and lose sight of what they want. Question: “Where is my client’s attention focused?”
  4. Once the client knows where they want to be and is focused on the desired state we can turn our attention to designing and proposing transformations that will optimise their system to deliver it. Question: How do I refocus my client’s attention?

Remembering all the time that the sooner the client starts moving toward their desired state the faster they will realise the value you bring as a consultant.