How Not to Find Solutions

how not to find solutions

My nephew, Jared was four years old when he moved to Oregon. One day, I took him on a walk. We were looking for mushrooms, I explained. I told him to keep his eyes peeled on the forest floor – because that is where you find them. I was about to learn how not to find solutions – in this case, mushrooms.

Not having children of my own, I wasn’t prepared for the experience. We didn’t go very far. He was poking around at slugs, climbing tree stumps, and eyeing the birds in the canopy. I couldn’t keep his focus on the mossy ground.

We weren’t finding any mushrooms, either, and my patience with him was waning. I turned around to see him squinting and staring up at a tree. Just as I started to give him another lecture about looking on the ground, he pointed up the alder and asked, “Aren’t those mushwooms, Aunt Chwissy?” I started to scold him, and then I looked up the tree.

There were hundreds of mushrooms on the trunk of that rotten alder! (I found out later that they were Pleurotus Ostreatus – Oyster mushrooms, choice edibles. To this day, they are my favorites for making pizza.)

Lesson: I had always found mushrooms on the forest floor because that was the only place I ever looked. That’s how not to find solutions! My nephew – all three feet of him – gave me the insight to look elsewhere. He taught me that when you focus, you filter! Now I keep that lesson close to my heart.

Change where you’re looking for solutions for those management problems. Adopt another viewpoint for a leadership challenge. Purposely detour from your routine a little each day:

  • Sit in a different place at a meeting or luncheon – you’ll get a different view.
  • Converse with someone outside your normal circles – younger, older, richer, poorer.
  • Pose questions about your challenges to your team or an outsider.
  • Then, listen to what they say!
  • Look at your own workplace as if you’ve never seen it before. Come in the back door.
  • Stay open to the impressions you get or those you hear from others.

Think like a four-year-old sometimes. You’ll get great insights from outside your normal perspective, and they’ll improve your leadership skills. You haven’t peaked yet!