Often, when confronted by problems, we have a tendency to work the problem. Then work it some more. And, from there, work it even more.
But does working, reworking and working at it harder uncover a solution? Often, the answer is no.
Instead, I like to recommend an alternative that may seem a bit outlandish to some, but is a remarkably effective strategy:
Take your biggest problem and skip It.
For many people unfamiliar with the extraordinary results you can achieve when employing Problem Skipping, failing to address a problem directly seems nothing more than avoidance. To their way of thinking, you’re not really doing anything to arrive at a solution. Instead, you’re burying your head in the sand.
That’s not the case in the least. For one thing, consider the results–if you have gone at a problem over and over, don’t you think you would have solved it by now? For another, Problem Skipping is exceedingly effective in addressing a core issue that’s inherent with may problems. Whatever you’re trying to solve may not be the real problem at all.
Instead, it’s important to peel the onion back a bit, layer by layer if need be, to identify the real problem.
The “Bug Bounty”
Here’s an anecdote that shows two distinctly different types of Problem Skipping—one, burrowing down to identify the actual problem and, two, skipping the problem completely.
In 2015, United Airlines had to ground a number of flights as a result of computer glitches. The problem highlighted the concern the carrier had about its computer network’s vulnerability to hackers.
United actually used problem skipping in two different places. First, was the “real” problem the number of planes that had to remain on the ground? No, it was actually the underlying technology and, from there, the possibility that a skilled hacker would be able to break through and paralyze a large portion of its fleet.
The second example of United’s Problem Skipping had to do with steps the carrier took to identify soft points in its technology. The initial problem was the substantial funding needed to carry out extensive security research. Instead, United skipped the problem by challenging real life hackers to try to flag problems before a more malicious hacker did the real thing.
Problems skipped and solved. Not only did hackers identify several cyber weak points, they were rewarded with frequent flyer miles—a so-called “bug bounty” that skipped over the problem of having to lay out piles of cash for security review.
One particularly astute hacker–a 19-year-old security researcher from Amsterdam–was awarded with a million air miles!
Chemotherapy Side Effects? Skip It!
Even those who have never had to deal with cancer are well aware of the horrific side effects of conventional chemotherapy—hair loss, nausea, among others. At first glance, the apparent problem would be ways to mitigate those dreadful side effects from the treatment.
Dr. Vijay Chudasama has a much better solution: Skip It.
A researcher at University College London, Dr. Chudasama is working on an alternate procedurethat he believes will eventually eliminate the need for chemotherapy completely. Rather than a chemotherapy “cocktail” that attacks both healthy and cancerous tissue, Dr. Chudasama’s method leverages antibodies that can distinguish between healthy and diseased tissue—and, in turn, making the problematic side effects of chemotherapy treatment moot.
The Need to Unravel a Mindset
For many, the biggest challenge of Problem Skipping is the shift in attitude. In brief, to their way of thinking, how can you solve a problem when Problem Skipping is simply avoiding the problem altogether?
This isn’t a question of disregarding significant problems or barriers. Rather, it’s just a different and more effective way of approaching them, a sort of conceptual and attitudinal shift that sheds fresh light, often showing that our “required” actions can actually be skipped altogether to get to the same, or better, result with much greater speed.
To that end, when confronting a problem, ask yourself: What’s the worst possible thing that could happen if, in fact, you chose to use Problem Skipping? And, by the same token, think about the consequences of merely staying the course and trying over and over to solve a problem that doesn’t seem to have a solution.
Give problem skipping a try. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much closer it can bring you to a solution and how quickly.