Strategy, Leadership & Development

Why We Must Change Our Approach To Problem Solving

6 months ago


Why We Must Change Our Approach To Problem Solving

“It’s never too late”

That’s a phrase we hear quite a lot isn’t it? Especially when it comes to solving social and environmental problems.

But what if it is? What if, based on our current approach, it is too late?

I personally think that’s the case. And here’s why.

Problem Solving for Sustainability | Jason Wicks

Problem Solving

In short, CSR and sustainability come down to a matter of problem solving.

We understand that we’re destroying the planet, and the lives of the people on it, and we need to somehow solve those problems. Considering the scale of these issues, any solution must naturally be adopted by governments, organisations and the everyday person on the street.

For the most part, I suppose we’re doing an okay job. Awareness is constantly increasing and many problems, are at the very least, not getting much worse.

Sadly though, we must shoot far higher than that.

Specifically regarding environmental issues, keeping the problem at bay is nothing short of delaying the inevitable. We need to drastically change how we live.

This is the crux of the problem.

Related: 3 Traits You Need To Be A Successful Social Leader – Read More 

Old School Problem Solving

The thing is, generic organisational systems and processes have been in place long before we realised the urgency of sustainability.

This has led to a rather ineffective problem solving process. It goes something like this.

  1. Realise there is a problem
  2. Think ‘what can we do to help?’
  3. Implement identified ‘solution’

Sound familiar?

For many, the above approach won’t seem ineffective at all. It may even sound ideal.

But it isn’t.

And it’s all because of that second step.

Broadly speaking, when organisations identify ‘what they can do to help’, their scope is frustratingly narrow. What they’re really saying is ‘how can we slightly tweak our current processes to contribute to addressing this issue?’.

By doing this, organisations will forever be ‘reactive’. Chipping away at a ludicrously large problem without really scratching the surface.

Problem Solving for Sustainability | Jason Wicks

‘New School’ Problem Solving

So if the current method isn’t exactly working, what sort of process should firms be adopting?

Well, in my view, it would go something like this:

  1. Realise there is a problem
  2. Understand what a world without that problem would look like
  3. Identify what needs to be done to create that world
  4. Run organisation accordingly

Sure, the difference may seem pedantic, but I think the effects are huge. Just look at Tesla as a prime example. In many ways, Elon Musk has ripped up the traditional business rulebook in order to focus on a sustainable future. He has a clear vision about what the world needs to look like and has created products and innovations that specifically help us get there.

In doing so he’s looked at the problem from a far broader perspective. He hasn’t just made sure that Teslas are eco friendly, he’s looking at the future of transport, and sustainable energy, as a whole.

Sure, there is still a long way to go, but I certainly fancy their chances at making a real difference.

Problem Solving for Sustainability | Jason Wicks


In short, our current problem solving method isn’t really working. In fact, I’d go as far to say that unless we change it, then maybe it actually is too late to save the world.

But it doesn’t have to be.

If we can understand the scale of a problem, and what a world without it might look like, then we have a genuine chance. We have a chance to create that world, and create that society.

Whilst it’s tempting to ask yourself ‘what can I do to help?’, it’s important to restrain. Instead, try thinking ‘what needs to happen for this problem to be solved?’. Then, find away to make it happen. That’s the only way that change will occur in time.

That’s the only way to genuinely save the world.

Hi! I’m an author and blogger within the fields of social impact and responsible business. I believe that businesses can be a force for good in the world, and this website contains my thoughts on how that can work.

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