Solving Problems From the Outside In

Bringing different worlds together
Cool things can happen when you bring different worlds together. From Trey Ratcliff’s Flickr photostream.

I don’t think opportunities are hard to come by. In fact, every time I talk with someone, I realize, from past history, there are likely a dozen ways to do a deal or project together.

The question is whether I can tune in from my own background and experiences and see if I can help in some way.

Everyone is trying to accomplish something whether it’s more income, better health or peace of mind. And I realize when I hear people talk that they are focused on their problems in a very specific way. This is especially true if they are technical and have a strong grasp of their domain.

But, an outsider can always bring a whole other realm of knowledge and creativity. I continually solve problems for my clients in a business environment in a way that works powerfully. I guess it’s a methodology or insight that may be part of what works. But I have also found that someone in a non-profit, from the medical field or even with family issues may want different and fresh approaches that the business world may offer.

So, here are some things I try to do with people from different walks of life:

  1. Listen and understand. I try to take in as much as I can about how a whole other industry or culture works. Asking lots of questions and trying to get a grasp of the way things work has roots and I try to get my mind around those by being curious.
  2. Tap my network. Someone in my address book can help the person. I just have to allow my mind to think about the problem and see if there is a connection. “Who can help?” is a great question. I might scan my contacts and then make the introduction.
  3. Work backwards. Trying to get clarity about what is stuck and why a problem hasn’t been solved before usually has a lot of reasons. A question I like to ask is, “If you could snap your fingers, what would you want to happen?” It’s a question to focus and clarify around outcomes.
  4. Offer ideas. I am a problem solver at heart. It’s what engineers do. Put a problem in front of us and we have a framework to attack the issue by defining our parameters and go after the answer. When you get clarity about the outcomes people want, then you likely have some answers to propose. Send those over generously and specifically.

It’s a lot of fun to bump into people from different walks of life. It keeps me informed of a larger picture and opens up options.

And I can lean on my collective experience and network to figure out how to bridge the gap that may have developed for those that haven’t considered something from the outside.

See if you can be helpful and creative when you are interacting with people. And if you find yourself struggling with solutions, don’t be quick to dismiss someone who is from outside your circle. They may have a fresh approach.