Give me problem solvers

Over my career, I've had the opportunity to work with countless individuals in trying to push innovation and products forward. And it's become clear to me there are two kinds of individuals (not including the "don't-give-a-damn" and "incompetent" crowd):

  • Those that figure out ways to solve problems

  • Those that see nothing but problems

It's that simple in my eyes. I am amazed that there is no grey area, people do not change, people do not switch sides on this. They either solve problems or they don't! Period. And, it's not surprising to me that in my experience those individuals that figure out ways to solve problems end up overdelivering and exceeding expectations and those that see nothing but problems work hard to triage and underdeliver.

Had a Director I worked with at Whirlpool that I had a great deal of respect describe the latter crowd as "people that love to deliver the turd!" Seeing problems is easy. Solving them is a combination of science, art, and work. And is the real measure by which we should set the talent bar.

It's not that the turd-swamis are not smart, or lazy, or incompetent, or inarticulate. In fact, my experience is that the turd-swamis are usually smarter than average and very articulate. Which, ironically, creates a problem! They tend to get the ear of upper management and are able to create churn (although usually upper management sees through that, eventually).

So, my challenge has been two-fold:

  1. How do I identify people during the interview process that are problem solvers vs. turd-deliverers?

  2. When I'm interfacing with a turd-activist, how do I tactfully find someone else to work with?

I have not solved the problem of the latter; its simply something I've acknowledged I must do if I am going to be successful in my role. If I figure out a technique that works, I will blog about it for sure :) On the interview front, I've found you can discover one's leaning by digging deep on a) their work history (pick a project they've done), and b) giving a hypothetical project and see how they attack it. Problem solvers take the latter and push it forward; turd-swamis take the latter and push back.

I love one of Vince Lombardi's quotes:

Never confuse activity with accomplishment

I think I will add to my repetoire (yes, I need to clean it up and make it more elegant):

Never confuse intelligence with problem solving

No comments: