Solve Problems From the Root

We all have problems, and we always will. We might get moments of respite, times when all is well, and we are without a care in the world. But ultimately, something will crop up. That is just life. There is always an obstacle to face and tackle. It helps keep things interesting.

The quality of our problems can serve as an indication of the quality of our lives. Some problems are better to have than others. Not knowing where to invest your excess money is a problem, just like not having enough money in the first place is also a problem. But one is a problem you would rather have.

Growth is swapping out problems for better ones, and we do that by solving them and moving on.

However there are problems that always seem to trip us up. Patterns and cycles that we get stuck in. Things that we can’t seem to shake. It might be because we tackling our problems in a superficial way, addressing the symptoms but never the root cause.

And that is a skill we could do well to cultivate — the ability to address our problems at the root, to cut through the noise and deal with the real systemic issues at play. To deploy the most effective tactics to resolve them.

I started to think about this concept a few weeks ago. I am involved on a running project with a client, and one of the components is a blog that gets updated daily. The team of writers submit their articles, which then need to be scheduled on the website. For a while we had the problem of not including tags when we posted the blogs. And it kept being a point of friction and complaints.

So that was the problem — the writer would often forget to include tags in their submissions. We could argue about it every time and hope that people just remember to include set tags with their submissions, or we could implement something that would solve this once and for all.

The problem kept happening because there was nothing in place to ensure that tags were included with every post. So our solution was to create a template that they would simply plug their submissions into, with dedicated fields for every single piece of information we need. Since then we haven’t missed tags.

You want to be able to tackle your problems so thoroughly, so effectively that they are essentially resolved forever. You want to solve your problems from the root. How do we do this?

Define the problem

To solve your issue you have to face it. It might be easier to bury your head in the sand, but it would be definitely be better if you faced things head on. You have to study your problem and figure out what exactly is happening. What are the specific symptoms you are dealing with? How long has this been going on for? What else does this problem affect?

Once we understand what the problem is, we can start to figure out the cause and develop solutions.

Ask ‘why’ 5 times

The 5 Whys technique was developed by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries as a key part of the problem solving training giving to employees. The idea is that by asking and answering ‘why’ five times, we can get to the real cause of the problem, and not just the more obvious symptoms.

You simply ask why your problem is occurring, and give an answer. One that is grounded in fact and reality. Then ask why again to that answer. Continue that process until you are 5 layers deep, by which time you would reach the core of the issue, the root cause of your problem.

Sometimes your problem might have multiple root causes, different factors that contribute to the overall failure of the whole. This technique can help you outline them all and know which to prioritise.

For instance you could have the problem of low growth in your business, and drill down to multiple root causes. Perhaps the business model itself is faulty, or the marketing systems need to be improved, maybe there are bottle necks in delivery. By drilling down, you can boil each factor down to its core issues and start to actually solve them.

Develop solutions

With a much clearer perspective on the issues at hand, and an understanding of the core problem, you can now start to come up with potential solutions and test them out. These interventions would have the greater chance of working because they address the true pain points, rendering the problem mute over time.

By approaching our problems this way, we can move beyond surface level solutions that often make our problems worse. We can get a firm grasp on the real issues at hand, and stand a proper chance at actually dealing with them on a deeper surgical level. In doing so, we solve the issues so that they do not return, so that we can move on and tackle new levels of problems and keep growing.

It does not mean that the solutions themselves would be easy. But they will tackle the root of the problem and solve it once and for all, and that is an effective and intentional use of your attention and energy.

Originally published at https://otoabasibassey.com on August 3, 2021.

I am an brand strategist, designer writer and entrepreneur using my skills to help people and businesses live up to their potential.

If there was an overarching theme to what I do, it would be “The art of being + the act of creating + the space in-between“. I am interested in how we live, how we create and how the two interact and inform each other.

My obsession with personal development and constant growth sparked in my early teens remains unabated and now I share what I learn as I build a life by design.

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I think things. I design things. I write things.

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Otoabasi Bassey

Otoabasi Bassey

I think things. I design things. I write things.

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