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The answer…

Have you noticed how frequently we are occupied today in seeking (or providing) “the answer”?

If you’re like me, many times “the answer” to a stated question or posed problem isn’t quite that simple.  My Father-in-Law, who was a carpenter, would respond to our home improvement feasibility questions with, “It all depends”.  How’s that for a non-answer, answer!

Take the mathematical problem; How much is 1+1?   In the precise, mathematical sense the answer is simple:  2.  In the real world of our business endeavors however, “precise” and “simple” are typically fantasies, true?  Our real world problems can be summarized:

Addendum to Murphy’s Law: 

In precise mathematical terms, 1+1 = 2, where “=” is a symbol meaning seldom if ever. 

Unknown Sage

And Murphy was an optimist.

So if our clients and colleagues today just want “the answer” to thus and so, what are we to do?  If their paradigm is – No discussion; No clarification; No interaction; No time – just give me the answer.  Oh, and by the way – it needs to be the “right answer”.  Oh, and I almost forgot – the faster the better.  What are we to do?  What is the (right) answer to such a problem?  Go ahead –please email it to me.  No, don’t call – I’m too busy to chat – in a hurry – you know.

Nobody is in a rush for the wrong answer. 

Robert D. Cohen

Well OK, Mr. Cohen.  But it seems like everyone is in a hurry.  So I ask again, what are we to do when we’re asked for “the answer” knowing that it “all depends”?

In business today there is in many cases an absence of “right answers” vs. “wrong answers”.  There are actually lots of right ways to do things (and lots of wrong ways too).  Answering business questions today is a thinking game.  If no thinking is required – then that is called a “transaction”.

If a question (aka transaction) does not require our interaction; if it can be self-serviced; that’s what’s known as an App on our Smart Phones; or a url on the Internet.  Anything left over probably requires thought – and thinking probably requires interaction – and interaction definitely requires time.

Whatever the business problem posed today is – there is likely not a singular answer – there are simply advantages and disadvantages to each of several “solutions” to be considered.  And how many of us state that we are in the “solution business”?  (At our company we even have people with Solution Consultant as their business card title.)

But if “solution” is mistaken for a “right answer”; and if a “right answer” is mistaken singularly as “the answer”; then don’t we run the risk of winding up back where we started?  Unknown Sage, help us:

Winfield’s Dictum of Direction-Giving: 

The possibility of getting lost is directly proportional to the number of times the direction-giver says, “You can’t miss it.”

Maybe answers can be automated.  Is that why we have so many automated call directories when we phonesomeone with a question?  Is technology “the answer”?

Gattuso’s Extension of Murphy’s Law: 

Nothing is ever so bad that it can’t get worse. 

Unknown Sage

OK, automation is probably not the answer.  Maybe, just maybe the solution is not “the answer” at all.  Maybe the answer is actually taking the time and completing the interactions in order to properly understand “the problem” in the first place.  Maybe the answer is the collaboration around the pros and cons of multiple, applicable answers.

Who da thought?

GAP

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