Forget Everything You’ve Learned about Problem Solving

Sept. 8, 2009
Intuition-based management is based on the idea that focusing on your strengths and those of others is far more effective than concentrating on what’s wrong.

A powerful approach from Kurt and Patricia Wright, the owners of Clear Purpose (, can profoundly improve your life, both at work and at home. The couple teaches a method for intuition-based management based on the idea that focusing on your strengths and those of others is far more effective than concentrating on what’s wrong.

According to the Wrights, more than 90% of U.S. business communication is based on an analytical way of asking questions that strengthens people’s resistance to change, drains their energy, reinforces communication barriers, and does more to compound problems than solve them.

In contrast, the moment you enter a business where the intuitive style of asking questions is practiced, you can feel the difference in the energy level and the level of trust and confidence. That’s because the intuitive style of asking questions creates a steady flow of insights that make problems practically solve themselves.

On their Web site is the Wright’s technique that helps apply this way of addressing life situations by asking such questions as, “What do I know is already right?” This question sets the agenda. And asking, “What is it that makes it right?” helps generate insights, while asking, “What would be ideally right?” helps build the vision. Lastly, asking, “What’s not yet quite right?” and “What resources do I need to make it right?” defines the gap to be filled and hones the focus to guide constructive action.

As a business consultant for many years, I used to try and find “the problem.” Much of my consulting was successful by standard measures, but many outcomes left me unsatisfied. These included unresolved interpersonal and interdepartmental tensions; solutions that worked briefly, but gave rise to more difficulties; and problems “solved” through the placing of blame. Since learning to ask “What’s right?” my engagements have been far more successful. And the approach has influenced all my relationships for the better.

Asking a “what’s right” question is related to an organization development approach called “appreciative inquiry,” which David Cooper-rider created in the late ’60s. In a recent article on the Appreciative Inquiry Commons site (, he notes:

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) says forget everything you learned in change management 101. Organizations are not problems to be solved. All the deficit-based change methods, from gap analysis to organizational diagnosis, are, in fact, creating an exhausting treadmill and barrier to real innovation. AI turns the problem-solving habits of the field on their head, and shows that change is more powerful, energizing, and effective when we inquire into the true, the good, the better, and the possible — everything that gives life to a system.

A parable is a good note on which to end:

A Cherokee elder sitting with his grandchildren told them, “In every life there is a terrible fight — a fight between two wolves. One is evil: He is fear, anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, and deceit. The other is good: joy, serenity, humility, confidence, generosity, truth, gentleness, and compassion.”

A child asked, “Grandfather, which wolf will win?”

The elder looked him in the eye. “The one you feed.”

I’ve given you a powerful idea and a couple of threads to follow. Let me know what you think: [email protected].

Edited by Leslie Gordon

Sponsored Recommendations

From concept to consumption: Optimizing success in food and beverage

April 9, 2024
Identifying opportunities and solutions for plant floor optimization has never been easier. Download our visual guide to quickly and efficiently pinpoint areas for operational...

A closer look at modern design considerations for food and beverage

April 9, 2024
With new and changing safety and hygiene regulations at top of mind, its easy to understand how other crucial aspects of machine design can get pushed aside. Our whitepaper explores...

Cybersecurity and the Medical Manufacturing Industry

April 9, 2024
Learn about medical manufacturing cybersecurity risks, costs, and threats as well as effective cybersecurity strategies and essential solutions.

Condition Monitoring for Energy and Utilities Assets

April 9, 2024
Condition monitoring is an essential element of asset management in the energy and utilities industry. The American oil and gas, water and wastewater, and electrical grid sectors...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!