Sometimes, people start their work with me knowing that they have a problem but have not fit all the pieces together. It feels like the solution is out there … just beyond reach… in the haze.
Often, focus has to be redirected to finding the correct question, i.e., reformulating the problem. In doing so, by considering, for example, what information or perspective has not yet been contemplated, reformulation can open the options to a new scheme.
I once worked with clients engaged together in a venture, each of whom felt the other was undeservedly insulting and brazen, stalemating their ability work together. Each had ample to say about the other’s poor character. Decisions still needed to be made, but that had become neigh impossible. Neither wanted to walk away (a possible solution). Each was not able to have the other do that either. They could not consider any other alternative. They were stymied.
Through intensive work, each began to consider what they did not know or had not contemplated. Remarkably, the problem changed from: “how to do I prove that I am right about the other?” to the formulation of a new problem: “how did this happen?”
This reformulation lead to a variety of possibilities that helped them consider their options, including jointly constructed possible solutions. Following the observation of Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space, the clients began to address the small concrete issues they could now see (and control). Based on insight from the inquiry of the new question, the focus shifted to the immediate need for some sort of co-working strategy while recognizing that a long-term solution required greater assessment.
"You cannot steer a ship that’s not moving. So, don’t stall, you have to be underway at least a little bit. Sometimes all you can do is see a half an inch in front of your nose. That’s enough. Do the best right thing you can see to do now. Don’t set up the construct of I can’t move until I know everything."