Solving a Problem with… a Problem?

This is part of the 2019 DRAFT series. These are posts that I started but didn’t finish. I usually have no idea why I was writing them at all, but they needed to be released into the wild so as not to clutter up my “draft” box. 

Owning a business occasionally gives me some interesting insights (at least I find them interesting). One thing that chronically reoccurs here at work is something I refer to as “blind-solving.” When a problem pops up – both in business and in every day life – our tendency is to address the problem and attempt to fix it. When creating a system we, as moral and rational beings, don’t like problems and wouldn’t knowingly create or introduce a problem (I’m sure I’m not speaking for everyone here). Sometimes solving a problem is time consuming, complicated and expensive. And in the process of correcting the issue we are actually creating a new problem that we completely ignore: the cost of the solution is more than the cost of the problem. 

One of my favorite examples of this situation involved a particular product we carry. It’s somewhat fragile and we ship them in bubble envelopes. Customer service noticed that this product was often arriving at it’s destination damaged (based on customer feedback). To combat this reoccurring problem they proposed that the product be shipped in a sturdier box. This seems like an absolutely reasonable proposal and no one logical would even second guess it. However, upon closer inspection we discovered that the additional cost of better shipping would be more expensive than simply replacing (or refunding) the item when there was an issue.

Don’t pay more to fix costs than the problem costs you!

Business owners have a recurring dear: that something will stop working and cripple the business. And when we find a “problem” we act on it. How we act on it says a lot about what kind of leaders we are. I’m advocating something unorthodox- when problems are identified within a system they should, on occasion, be allowed and ignored.

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