Solutions 101

Dustin S. Klein, Publisher and Executive Editor, Smart Business

One of my favorite entertainment genres is the adventure where the protagonist finds him or herself in an improbable situation. Sometimes this comes in the form of a traditional mystery or detective story, but I also enjoy those that contain a supernatural twist.

In these tales, the “hero” faces two seemingly herculean tasks: Figure out what the heck is going on, and develop a viable solution to the problem.

This genre is intriguing for several reasons.

First, I prefer entertainment that’s an escape from reality. Second, these escapes must contain some sort of mystery that lets me follow along and ponder potential solutions. And on both counts I’m willing to accept a step through the looking glass to areas that are, for lack of a better term, “out there.”

In the business world, I’m drawn to similar stories, of course, minus the supernatural bent. (Though it would make for a great story if a CEO mentioned her biggest challenge was that her employees kept turning invisible.)

It’s always interesting to hear from entrepreneurs and CEOs who, when faced with declining sales, a waning product market or tough competition, recognize that their first course of action must be that deep dive to get below the surface of the problem. These leaders know they need to push past the symptoms to find the root cause — the “What the heck is going on?”

During these journeys — just like in those of the fictional stories — there is almost always a transformational process that follows the aha moment. And it’s that transformation that allows the CEO to take a sudden 90-degree turn and attack the problem with a different type of solution.

Understanding a problem isn’t always as simple as it seems. Just like in entertainment, initial impressions can be wrong. The real problem can be masked, and figuring out what’s really going on so that a true solution can be developed requires stepping back and taking a hard look at the bigger picture.

I recommend thinking like a mystery writer — anticipate the twists and turns that will exist. If you don’t take the necessary time to figure out if those declining sales are due to lack of sales activity, a poor product or simply a competitor that is working harder and smarter to steal your clients, you could end up focused on the wrong thing. And when that happens, you’ll never solve your own personal mystery.

Contact Publisher and Executive Editor Dustin S. Klein at [email protected]