I remember hearing the following riddle as a child:

Q: How many surrealists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Guitar

Though I initially had absolutely no idea what this meant, I would gleefully repeat it until a sympathetic adult (probably my Dad) took me aside to walk me through it.

I experienced a similar sensation recently when I read a Harvard Business Review Article:

Q: How do you increase the speed of an elevator?

A: Hand sanitizer.

So today, I want to talk about problems and solutions.

Anyone who knows CSR or has read this blog knows that CSR stands for Consulting, Solutions and Results.

Even though Results are what bring home the bacon, that whole solution thing is a big deal and we are all wired (albeit in our own specific way) to attack them.

Rosi recently shared an awesome article by Thomas Wedell Wedellsborg  in the January/February edition of Harvard Business Review entitled Are You Solving the Right Problems?. This was an article that really spoke to me as it encompassed one of our core values: caring (as in, “wanting the best for someone even if it may seem unpleasant”).  In it, the author discusses the importance of caring enough about the person with whom one is interacting to truly understand the problem at hand and solve that which is in question versus what one believes may be the problem.

Wedellsborg gives the example of a building where there are complaints about an elevator’s speed. Brainstorming produces the following solutions under the banner of “make the elevator faster”:

  • Upgrade the elevator’s motor
  • Improve the elevator’s algorithm
  • Install a whole new elevator

The solution offered (and accepted)?

After fact finding and really listening (in other words, caring), the real problem was determined to be that the wait was annoying.  Though a faster elevator might have resolved this, the building owner, instead, elected to implement the following more direct (and cheaper) solutions:

  • Put up mirrors
  • Play music
  • Install a hand sanitizer

As “surreal” of an answer this might initially seem to be, truly listening and caring about your audience helps you find the right question and then the right solution.

Alex is an Atlanta native. He graduated from Georgia Tech with a Bachelor’s degree in Management. He went on to receive a Master’s degree in Information Systems from The George Washington University. After a 15-year career in manufacturing and financial services, Alex broadened his experience by working in diverse industries ranging from health information management to the non-profit sector. He was instrumental in the turn-around of a public company which recently sold for $300MM. Alex serves as a mentor in the Catholic Charities Leadership Program as well as the Georgia Tech MentorJackets program. He is President Emeritus of the Georgia Tech Intown Alumni Network and an event sponsor for the George Washington University Alumni Association Atlanta Club. He was instrumental in the foundation of NobisWorks (f/ka Recycletronics), an e-waste recycling business that provides employment for disabled veterans and funds training programs while reducing e-waste in landfills. He also serves on the boards of Lifecycle Building Center and Pinecrest Academy. He and his wife María are active members of the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta and are the parents of five children ranging in age from adolescent to young adult.