Problem finders vs. Problem solvers

I’ve seen several articles on this recently, but I figured I would write my own post on it as well. As you can tell by the title, I am comparing two types of people. Problem finders and problem solvers. When thinking about assembling a team, who would you rather have on your team? Someone who can point out problems? Or someone who fixes problems (like Macgyver)? I personally would much rather have a problem solver and you should too.

It seems fairly obvious to me that problem solvers are more valuable to an organization but I see companies hire problem finders time after time. Why is that? I think it is because there are a lot more people who can find problems. Problem solvers are a lot less abundant. If your company actually has customers, you should already have a big pool of problem finders (Customers love telling you what isn’t working) so there is no need to bring on team members who will also tell you more stuff that is broken. If you aren’t hearing the problems from your customers, it probably isn’t a big enough problem that needs to be addressed anyway.

A few months ago, I read a simple story that highlighted problem solvers versus problem solvers (sorry, I don’t remember the source). The story was about a trash can inside a bathroom. The trash can used to get filled to the brim every day and would eventually overflow with paper towels before the cleaning staff would come in to empty it for the day. People complained about the excess paper towels on the floor, but no one ever did anything about it. Then one day, a new employee noticed this was a frequent problem. He didn’t complain about it though. He simply went into the storage closet where he knew there was an extra trash can and brought it into the bathroom. Now there were two trash cans in the restroom and there was more than enough space for the paper towels to get thrown away. This guy was a problem solver. He didn’t complain. He just recognized a problem and came up with a way to fix it. You would be surprise how many people would rather complain about something every single day, rather than actually take some initiative to fix it.

The way most businesses are run, they have their own various “trash can” problems. This means there are plenty of opportunities for problem solvers to shine. The problem is that most people aren’t problem solvers. They are problem finders. So here are some words of advice: Stop finding problems. Start fixing problems.

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2 Responses to Problem finders vs. Problem solvers

  1. Andy Fields says:

    I agree completely, which is why I have been focusing on building a community of problem solvers at http://www.pinpoint.com

  2. jumbomingus says:

    That guy was a problem-finder AND problem-solver.

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