Friday, August 7, 2015

Problem Finding and Clarity

Over the past couple of days I've been reflecting on Dan Pink's book To Sell Is Human and seeing how this relates to both education and coaching (non-sales selling).  Today I'm thinking about the final part of the ABC - clarity.

As an IT teacher one of the things we talk to students about is the abundance of information that is available today.  When I was a child, my father used to subscribe to a consumer magazine called Which? which each month reviewed a variety of products and rated these on which was the best quality and value for money.  If my family had wanted to buy something that had not been reviewed, we would have had to rely on the expertise of the salesperson in the store as to which product would best meet our needs and budget.  Today of course everything is different.  We now have access to all the information we need to make the best possible decision about any goods, services or experiences we want to purchase, in particular the reviews of other users.  However, as Dan Pink points out, now the issue is not so much problem solving, as problem finding.  This ties in very much with cognitive coaching, in particular the problem resolving map.

One of the issues that people have when they are facing wicked problems is that they do not know what the solution might be - they don't know what they want but they know that they don't want what they already have.  At this point they are basically stuck in the present, and cannot envision a desired future state.  Before I learned about coaching, I think my first reaction to someone in that situation would have been to offer sympathy and comfort or maybe even suggestions from my perspective as to how to deal with the situation.  Basically I used to think that I had to suggest a solution.

Now I know that this is not the most productive approach.  In coaching what you do it to focus on the desired state for the person, and to set aside your own need for comprehension of the problem, for comfort or for closure.  Cognitive Coaching promotes the coachee to think in a productive manner, rather than in a reactive, survival manner.  Dan Pink writes about problem finding rather than problem solving in a similar way:  "If I know my problem I can likely solve it.  If I don't know my problem, I might need some help finding it ... part of being an innovative leader is being able to frame a problem in interesting ways and to see what the problem really is before you jump in to solve it."

Pink writes that in the past everything was about accessing information, now it's more about curating it - sorting through the data and presenting to others the most relevant and clarifying pieces.  This is why in Cognitive Coaching we paraphrase over and over again as part of the pace:  "You're (emotion) because (content) and what you want is to (goal) and you're looking for a way to make that happen (paathway).  Oftentimes we need to try several times to find what the real goal is - we might not get it right first time - we need to seek clarity.

We have shifted from a situation where both sales people and coaches answer questions, to a situation where they both ask questions "uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues, and finding unexpected problems".

Photo Credit: Richard John Pozon via Compfight cc

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