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Difference between Focusing on Problems (Challenges) and Focusing on Solutions

The following cases show the difference between focusing on problems (challenges) and focusing on solutions.

Case 1

When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out
that the pens wouldn’t work at zero gravity (ink won’t flow down to the
writing surface). To solve this problem, it took them one decade and
$12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside
down, underwater, on practically any surface including crystal and in a
temperature range from below freezing to over 300 degrees C.

And what did the Russians do…?? They used a pencil.

Case 2

One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese management was the
case of the empty soapbox, which happened in one of Japan’s biggest
cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer
had bought a soapbox that was empty. Immediately the authorities
isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the
packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one
soapbox went through the assembly line empty. Management asked its
engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard
to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two
people to watch all the soapboxes that passed through the line to make
sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked
fast but they spent a whoopee amount to do so. But when a rank-and-file
employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, he did not
get into complications of X-rays, etc., but instead came out with
another solution. He bought a strong industrial electric fan and
pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each
soapbox passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.

Moral : Always look for simple solutions.

Why focus on solutions rather than problems? Because you will always
get what you focus on. If you focus on problems you will only get more
of them. For a simple example, let’s say you are driving along in your
car and there is a big hole in front of you. If you focus on the hole,
guess what! You will no doubt hit it because that is what you are
focusing on . The trick is to look past the hole, that way you will
avoid it.

I am the President of The Entrance Chamber of Commerce and am amazed at
how many problems people seem to find when making a decision. What if
this happens? What if that happens?

If the decision is based on what is best for The Entrance then surely
that is the solution. Any problem on the way will simply be a milestone
to achieve and guide us on our way.

If we keep putting problems in the way then nothing will get done.

Devise the simplest possible solution that solves the problems

Always focus on solutions and not on problems

Bill Annesley
Small Fish Business Coaching



About the Author

Carl Dierschow

Carl Dierschow is our Small Fish Business Coach in Colorado in the USA. With over 17 years of experience in professional business coaching, he helps clients around the world to build profitable, powerful, sustainable companies. You may want to check out his targeted blogs at and

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