Sleepless in Des Moines

It happened again.  Business trip to Des Moines.  An unfamiliar place.  Tossing and turning.  I glanced at the clock.


Ugh.  I had to be up in less than five hours.   I’m not sure if it was my restless mind or my decision to add extra jalapenos to my nachos platter at dinner.  Whatever the case, I was not staring at the back of my eyelids like I should.  Instead, I was turning on late night TV and seriously considering buying this amazing blender being advertised. 

It can pulverize a golf ball in fifteen seconds.

Luckily, my critical thinking skills kicked in and I remembered that my family doesn’t eat a lot of dishes requiring pureed golf ball.  I changed the channel and saw an advertisement for a prescription sleep aid, which really caught my attention.  But not for the reasons you might think.

As I watched, I was reminded of an article I read some time ago.  It researched the claims made by such ads.  They appeal to a guy like me because they promise a quick fix to my apparent problem.  But, all is not what it seems.

Ask yourself:  “Why would I want to take a sleep aid?”  Answer:  “To sleep, of course!”  But, is sleeping really what you’re after? 


You want to feel rested and refreshed.  Ready to take on the day.  The truth is, if you take the drug being advertised, you will certainly sleep like a champ.  But, mentioned right there in the side effects is the fact that you are also more likely to feel drowsy the next day.


I know.  It’s lunacy.  But we do it all the time.  With prescriptions.  With products.  With projects.  We lose sight of our ultimate goal and start chasing imaginary monsters.  So how do we stop?

  1. Ask “What is the real problem we are trying to solve?”:  You’ll be surprised how much clarity this one question can bring to your problem solving meetings.
  2. Assure metrics align with your strategy:  Are the things you are measuring truly relevant in the context of your overall business strategy?  Consider the company that is laser-focused on improving customer experience, yet has objectives in place to minimize handle time for customer calls, resulting in more hand offs and more angry customers.
  3. Use the “Five Why’s”: We often treat symptoms instead of root causes.  When exploring the true cause of a problem (Ex: our product development is too slow), ask “Why” over and over again.  If you ask “Why” enough, you will eventually find your way to the root cause, or the key area to investigate.

In 35 years of working with clients, we’ve seen how easy it is to latch on to a quick solution to the wrong problem.  And our foundational skills teach tools and techniques to avoid this pitfall and many others.  If you are looking to build a robust problem solving culture give us a call at (800) 386-5611.







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