Albert Einstein said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”

Tony Robbins said the opposite: “Leaders spend 5% of their time on the problem and 95% of their time on the solution.”

I’d have backed Einstein’s philosophy regardless of him being a Nobel Prize winning genius who successfully solved HUGE problems and changed the way we view space, time, mass and energy. Because I reckon that Robbins – ‘the USA’s #1 business strategist’ – is just wrong on this one.

Robbins’ mantra goes hand in hand with the ‘don’t come to me with a problem – come to me with the solution’ mentality that has been permeating management for some time. Which mostly results in non-urgent problems not being raised by employees because they lack time to develop solutions themselves. When the problem reaches crisis point it becomes a ‘drop everything and find a solution NOW’ scenario.

And that’s the worst possible situation in which to develop great ideas. Einstein knew that problems are full of clues to their own successful solution. And like any good detective you need to spend time uncovering those clues before you come up with ideas about how to solve the problem.

The first phase in the Design Thinking process is all about understanding the problem. Often this phase takes up more time than the other phases put together. It’s where the magic begins as we empathise with those involved. It’s where we develop insights, have aha moments and set the foundation for extraordinary, compelling solutions.

And it’s the phase that’s usually skipped …. unless you’re an Einstein or a Design Thinker.

Carol Harding

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