If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you probably know by now that I am a big component of not only embracing challenges but using them to your advantage. Challenges are all around us and they can either serve as an impetus for growth or one of failure - the decision is up to us. Every challenge brings with it a choice, and as the road diverges and the moment of choice arrives, you will ultimately decide your future.
According to the S.I.T. method of creativity, the most efficient way of solving problems is to work backward – instead of having a problem and trying to randomly brainstorming a solution, you should find a solution and seek to see what problem it solves. It would be much easier to invent a child’s booster seat that sits on a regular chair by encountering a broken chair with no legs and finding a purpose for it than by thinking of solutions for toddlers during meal time. This idea of working backward, known as Function Follows Form, although specifically referring to innovation and problem solving, can be expanded to relate to all challenges we face. Whenever we hit a roadblock, we should try to retrain our brain that instead of losing hope and admitting defeat, we identify what new problem it solves.
Let me share a simple example. COVID has brought with it many challenges, that have impacted all areas of life. Imagine you are the local zoo director and are tasked with trying to get as many (or as few) people as possible into the zoo while maintaining strict social distancing. Your initial reaction is panic and stress, as this is quite the challenge. There might be days that as many as 50,000 people visit the zoo. But then you stop and remind yourself that challenges bring opportunities, and you roll up your sleeves and get to work. After a short meeting, your staff maps out the zoo and creates two different paths for incoming and outgoing visitors. You create a simple flow that makes visiting safe and smooth. The result? Guests are thrilled. Visiting the zoo has never been so calm. Children know exactly where to be, lines don’t pile up once people are inside and the overall experience is better. People leave positive feedback and ask that this new system continue even after COVID is over. Looking back, you could have just stayed in panic mode or spent a few days plastering the zoo with social distancing posters. You might have even come up with a basic solution that would have gotten the job done. But by keeping the idea that challenges bring opportunities in the forefront of your mind, you were not only able to overcome your challenge but improve the status quo. You identified the solution of two different paths and in turn, solved the problem of normal disorganization in the zoo’s flow. You discovered new opportunities for the zoo, just by taking a solution and asking yourself what problem it solved.
The next time you face a challenge, ask yourself this key question – what are the benefits of this challenge? Of course the challenges are real and often drastic (as with COVID) but the only way to find the opportunities is to believe that light can emerge from darkness. It is hard to do, but the results are extremely rewarding. Are you up for the challenge? I guess it depends on how much you value opportunities.