Is there a Secret Ingredient for Getting the Leadership Promotion?
What Carlos Santana Can Teach Us About Servant Leadership and Collaboration

How to Solve the Real Problem to Problem-Solving

“Where am I going to find the time to get everything done?”

“It is just not possible to get any time to myself.  I’m in endless meetings or being constantly interrupted.”

“Management wants me to ‘think outside of the box’ and find some creative solution to this problem.  Right!  My schedule is too busy and brainstorming is nothing but a source of frustration.  People come up with ideas that I don’t have the budget for or the time to implement; and then they get mad because I don’t follow through on their ideas.”

This is starting to sound too familiar, isn’t it?  Leaders have a tremendous amount of responsibilities in these challenging economic times and the demand to be creative is a constant expectation in the equation.  


The time factor is not the only problem though.  There is a more pervasive distraction that is hampering our ability to use our imagination and unleash the creative potential of our thoughts.  It is the product of our fabulous information age and advances in technology.  The real problem is noise.

Yes, “Noise”.

Stop right now and observe what’s going on around you.  What noise can you identify?

Most of us could list the noise we hear - the buzz of lights, computers, people talking, etc.  And yet, the noise that drowns out our ability to think creatively is more than that - it includes:

  • the access to the internet,
  • the stack of papers on the desk,
  • emails,
  • cell phones,
  • social media (Facebook, Twitter, LInkedIn, Pinterest...)
  • the caption feed running along the bottom of the screen while you watch the news,
  • text messages,
  • that to-do list.

All of these, and so much more, are constantly pulling for the attention of our thoughts and crowding out the power of our imagination.

We need to find ways to UNPLUG from the noise.  Do you remember all the "cool ideas" you thought of when you were a child?  Where did you have those ideas?  People tell me those ideas came when they climbed up in a tree, were on a swing at the park, or reading at the library.  No crowds, no noise, just quietly thinking.

Think about this - great ideas often occur to us in the shower!  Right?  I'm sure that's happened to you.  And it's because there are fewer distractions.  

Consider this great advice from Carlos Santana from a recent interview published by Forbes

“Your imagination is like a muscle. If you take the time to just sit down and just close your eyes and imagine things, it’s like a muscle you develop. That’s why it’s good to turn off all the computers, TV and noise and just sit with yourself for a while. You can get beyond the noise and you get to hear this voice. This voice sounds very different than all the other accusing voices or guilt voices and fear. Once you start hearing this voice, it is very soothing, gentle and is very non-accusing. And then you can expand upon the ideas and make them a reality.”

I really appreciate what he says about the “voice...soothing, gentle...non-accusing.”

If you want to solve the real problem to problem-solving ELIMINATE THE DISTRACTIONS. You can recapture your child-like ability to imagine, to dream and to create.  Here are some quick actions to overcome the distrations:

1) UNPLUG for a while each day and TAKE A WALK.

2) LEAVE the technology on your desk.

3) CARRY A NOTEPAD and a pen.  Yes, the old fashioned tool of paper and pen.

4) LISTEN TO and WRITE down the ideas that you hear in your thoughts.  The physical act of expressing those thoughts in your mind and watching them develop into visible elements on paper is enlightening.

5) TAKE A WALK and TALK.  Have a creative person join you.  Talk about ideas, not about events or other people.  Steve Jobs did this all the time.

Develop that muscle.  The next time you go into a problem solving meeting, you’ll be better prepared to lead the solutions.

- Steven Iwersen


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