Sunday, June 27, 2010

2013 TKR: The Deer-in-the-Headlight Model for Problem-Solving

The Deer-in-the-Headlight Model 
for Problem-Solving: 
Not your best model for problem-solving? You guessed it. But popular. Look around and watch people use it. 
Use your head! They always tell you that. They never tell you how
No so popular with deer. Usually just one trial there. But people have ways of using it that last longer. If we step back a moment, we see the deer’s mistake lies in focus. The deer sees a threat and focuses on the problem. We kibitzers know immediately that she should be focusing on where she wants to be.

So much for the idea that focus is the key to success.
We humans are smarter than deer.  Most of the time. We do have that same model.  On rare occasions, we do freeze in fear. That’s why humans have fire drills.  Human usually think ahead on things like that.  You don't panic if you already know what to do.

But there are less obvious ways to apply this model. Take the name I had to use in the title. Problem-solving. Standard psychological and business terminology. But notice how the phrase puts the problem first.
A problem is just an opportunity being mismanaged.
-The problem is mentioned first because the problem is what people notice first. And what people talk about first. Just like with the deer.  Those headlights really catch her attention. They catch your attention, too, as you drive down a dark road at night.  But you don’t look at them. You look at where you want your car to go. 

So why do we go along with the crowd and call it problem-solving instead of solution-finding? Because that’s where people naturally start. Might as well get it out of the way quickly. Then shift, as problem-solvers naturally do, to the goal.

If you routinely focus on the goal, you may think the deer-in-the-headlights model is of no interest to you. But that’s if you are only responsible for yourself. If you need to work with other people, you need to watch for the model they are using. 

People using the deer-in-the-headlights model will 

  • talk about the problem
  • complain
  • suggest that "someone" should do something about the problem
  • never talk about concrete actions they could take.
That language tells you that they are not ready to solve the problem. They are just ready to complain about it.   If you want to test that, try suggesting a solution.  Watch for how quickly they come up with reasons why your suggestion won't work.   Try it.  Makes an interesting Head Game.
Of course, you and I  wouldn't work a problem this way. We would never let the problem distract us from the solution. 

  • What, never?
  • Well, hardly ever.
  • Hardly ever let the problem distract us from the solution. 
That's why people call us problem-solvers. And why we call ourselves solution-finders.

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