What does it mean to have problem solving skills? I was talking to a friend last week about a product launch that wasn’t going as well as he wanted—not because of the product itself or the team’s preparedness—but because the key stakeholders involved in the product launch were not able to problem solve in the midst of a crisis—they got caught in the nitty gritty and missed the forest for the trees. We discussed how some people are better at problem solving than others. This might elicit an “duh, that’s obvious” kind of response from my readers but let’s think about this a bit. Some folks are hustlers—nimble on their feet—and can turn a bad situation around without losing perspective. What makes some people more nimble than their teammates and can this skill be learned?
I would argue that it can be learned. The inspiration for the title of this blog comes from the Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman’s book in which he walks us through the two different types of systems at play when we try to understand what we see before us: system 1 is the rapid response (fast thinking) and system 2 is the more deliberate response (slow thinking). Both systems can lead us to incorrect readings of a situation but the point is that once we are aware of our biases we can adjust our reasoning and thinking.
While it is obvious to say that some people have more practice than others in problem solving, there are other things that at at play here as well. Remaining somewhat calm so that you can think through solutions is only one part of the problem (ex. most parents know how to deal with infant crises), but it is also the ability to step outside of the problem and see it from a distance. The old adage “practice makes perfect” rings true here. Thinking fast and slow becomes easier with practice and by being mindful to ones biases and patterns.