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How To Solve Problems You Didn’t See Coming

It’s a VUCA World

Have you ever been really vulnerable? In a place that you’ve never been before?

Answers seem distant and hard to reach. Those around you are silent, or at best have ideas, but nothing is really sticking.

That was what I experienced at the beginning of March 2020. The phone began to ring from my customers around the world, business partners and team members.

Concerns of the CoronaVirus spanned the market. Everyone was looking for answers on how to solve their problems, and also how best to help their customers.

I remember taking a deep breath and was reminded of something I was taught by a mentor. 

He said: 

We live in a VUCA world:





All of these attributes could be applied at almost anytime in history.

Great companies fail every day. 

What keeps them alive are their practices and ideas which I have provided for you to explore and implement in this article.

Going through tough times is not new to humanity.

Yet what is rare is taking the space to think, truly taking a step back and considering your position, particularly in times of crisis.

Solving big, complex problems requires a shift in belief and perspective.

It’s about having the belief that what you know will not be forever, and having the perspective to know what is hidden or undiscovered is exactly what you need to move forward.

This begins with having control and influence.

Control and Influence

Control and Influence are all about belief.

We can often look at our circumstances and immediately see the things we cannot do; this is highly restrictive.

Feeling vulnerable is okay! 

In fact, I believe…

Vulnerability = Power

Why? Because in vulnerability you are at your most aware. 

When in this vulnerability awareness, simply ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What can I control?
  2. What can I influence? 
  3. What is out of my concern (I cannot do anything about)?

Take a moment, grab a piece of paper and answer these questions. When I say a moment I mean really make the space to think, truly take a step back and consider your answers by placing them within three circles like below.

What are you resolving?

When you’re resolving a problem, it’s important to understand the difference between a cause and a symptom. 

A “symptom” is an indicator or a sign that a problem exists. In other words, when you resolve an issue, you must address the cause of the problem, not a related symptom.

Example: If the current problem you are experiencing is a lack of sales or customers becoming more risk-averse, is this a problem or symptom?

I’d propose it’s a symptom.

Lack of sales with your customers could be a result of ineffective systems that have not added consistent value that is recognised as superior by your customers.

Customers becoming more risk-averse could be the result of a market anomaly that is out of your control.

Either way, the moment you identify what you’re really seeking to solve for the better, the more you are able to apply your resources effectively and not wastefully in the wrong areas.

How to maximise Thinking Time

We all have blind spots. 

Now, more than ever, our ability to synthesise mounds of dense and complex information, find patterns, or offer insights personalised for ourselves and our customers requires a new form of thinking. Thinking that allows you to consider choice as a system leading to results, not just activities.

Thinking time is about “perspective”.

Thinking better can become your superpower. 

Your ability to cultivate a practice of reflection, evaluation and challenge of your day-to-day activities and habits will transform your results. 

The impact of this practice can be explosive. You will begin to recognise the real risks and discover new opportunities. 

The process of thinking time was inspired by a book called “The Road Less Stupid” written by Keith Cunningham, a mentor to Tony Robbins and the man who inspired “Rich Dad, Poor Dad.”

The process helps you discover two things:

  1. What problem is the right one to solve?
  2. What don’t we see?

Both are very important questions.

The Thinking Time Process

  1. Find the unasked question – Create a question that will result in clarity and generate better choices.
  2. Separate the problem from the symptom – Identify the real obstacle blocking your progress.
  3. Check Assumptions – Differentiate the facts from the story we have created.
  4. Consider second consequences – Clarify the risks and the possibility or cost of being wrong.
  5. Create the machine – Develop the executable plan with resources to solve the real core problem.

The most important step to start you off is finding the unasked question

The Unasked Question

A great question has three common characteristics, but it does not need all three to be effective.

  1. It provides insight into what the actual problem is that needs to be addressed.
  2. It simplifies how to approach the problem and make it solvable.
  3. It expands the number of possibilities to solve the problem or at a minimum to improve the situation.

It is our job as business owners and leaders to get clarity on the right question to ask before we ask people to take action.

A quick way to do this is to write down the questions you currently have.

Example: Customers are doing less business.

Typical question: Why are customers doing less business?

Thinking Time question: How might we explore the real challenge of why customers are doing less business with us?

Both questions offer similar responses but the second question meets the great question criteria as it expands the possibilities and simplifies how to approach the problem.

Start asking better questions today.

Benefits of reflection and thinking

So what actual benefits are there to taking thinking more seriously as a daily practice? 

Here are five I’ve personally benefited from:

  1. Gain greater clarity and perspective on the right things to act on, to maximise your time spent to get results.
  2. Come up with better and more insightful questions to ask to get the answers that really matter.
  3. Identify potential blocks in your way to achieving and get help faster to overcome them.
  4. Understand yourself better as you hear the inner story and questions you ask yourself. The act of writing out what you think and feel about a situation will help centre your emotions enabling you to show up as the best version of yourself. 
  5. Insights to deduce the unhelpful and useful patterns of behaviour. Just like Sherlock Holmes, things will just become “elementary”.

What Next?

If you’d like to get connected with more customer insights or speak with me or my team on how you can transform your results through a new system for solving problems, get in touch.


  • We live constantly in a VUCA world.
  • You have Control and Influence.
  • Solve the right problem.
  • Take space for Thinking Time.

Let us help you become the adviser your customer never wants to leave!