Are Your Problems Repeating Themselves?

By Mike Cardus  |  Organizational Development Consultant, Executive Exchange Facilitator

With creativity and change, there are two types of problems:

  1. Normal Problems = These are growth and adaptation challenges that are normal to most change. You and the team can figure these issues out or work through them with little to no outside help.
    • Normal problems are transitional in nature: You encounter them, solve them, learn from them, and readily move on.
  2. Abnormal Problems = AKA Cul-de-sac problems. You “drive around in circles,” seeing your problems repeat themselves over and over again. You keep encountering problems you thought you solved, but they continually reappear in a new version or Management’s attempt to address them produce other undesirable side effects.
    • In abnormal situations, management feels incapable and helpless in resolving the issues. Soon the organization loses trust in leadership.
When you feel stuckness-thinking or abnormal problems, that is when you need outside help and support.  

Stuckness in thinking, erroneous data, wrong assumptions, and false conclusions are what causes abnormal problems.

It is essential to keep an open mind and focus on the environment that causes creativity to cease. It is crucial to validate and challenge all data and assumptions. Below is a list of frequent causes of abnormal problems and recommended actions that you the problem solver can take to address those issues.

Frequent Causes of Stuckness in thinking or Abnormal Problems
  • Experience: too much experience can lead to stuckness and drive thinking in a trained direction closing off new ideas.
  • Fixed thinking techniques: repeating the same steps, and using the same methods leads to repeating the same result, creating the same ideas.
  • Groupthink: over time, people working together will tend to think the same way, believe the same conclusions and results. This group mindset leads to stuck thinking, as new members are introduced instead of pursuing new ideas provided by “a fresh pair of eyes,” the group tries to assimilate new members into current
  • Model Worship: a specific favorite model is pursued, and alternatives are dropped.
  • False Information/Incorrect Data/False Assumptions: this may be due to the way the data or information was collected. For example, incorrect calibration of measurement standards, or just inaccurate information or facts have been obtained or assumed.
  • False Conclusions: for example, the sun rises every day in the east. False conclusion – the sun revolves around the earth.
  • Hidden Resources: contaminants, secondary, or derived resources cause the problem.
  • Hidden Mechanisms: mechanism may be a new or unusual phenomenon or be an effect outside the problem-solvers field of knowledge.
  • There is More Than One Problem: and therefore, more than one solution.
  • Insufficient Technical Knowledge: this is rarely the reason for a problem. Ordinarily, such gaps in knowledge close quickly, and problems solved.
Actions to address common issues that impede problem solving and creativity
  • Have new people check all data and information to provide fresh thinking.
  • Determine whether the conclusions can be wrong (be highly critical of all findings).
  • Check that the information is gathered correctly and is accurate; assign a specific person (owner) responsible for checking the data.
  • Physically check and visually witness information or data instead of accepting validation from others.
  • Always challenge calibration methods.
  • Determine what potentially hidden or secondary resources might be present and how they could cause the problem.
  • Describe a new or unusual mechanism that would have a to exist to cause the problem.
  • Demonstrate the problem is not merely an outlier (a rare but expected event; therefore, not a problem at all).

Independent validation of each piece of data, assumption, and conclusion is needed. It is useful to list all assumptions and conclusions and challenge each in turn. Re-checking the information, using different personnel is necessary to avoid stuckness-thinking and groupthink.

As you understand the abnormal problems, you can develop a process to make the abnormal into normal and continue to innovate your organization.

Mike Cardus: BNP Executive Exchange Facilitator:
 Mike has focused expertise in team building, managerial-leadership, and organization development.  Frequently asked to create solutions to address the development of high-performance teams, retention of talent, the innovation of product and profit streams, group conflict, coaching of leaders, developing systems to drive positive behaviors, and development of skilled knowledge to increase organizational and personal effectiveness. Learn more about Mike.