As CEO of an IT consultancy, Niklas knows how crucial security is to his customers. Yet there was one potential issue he and his team had been grappling with for over 2 years. Despite 20 or 30 attempts, they hadn’t even been able to define the problem.
Then he changed tack, and within 5 minutes they had generated a breakthrough. Two weeks later they’d implemented a quick fix to halve the risk, and fully designed a long term solution.
How did the breakthrough happen?
They all agreed there was a problem – but they could never agree what the problem was! For 2 years they’d been asking the question, “What’s the real problem here?” – and they still didn’t have an answer.
That’s the “avoidance mode” in action – trying to get away from the unwanted. It’s part of the brain’s fight-flight response, which dramatically reduces ability to “think outside the box” and solve complex problems.
Niklas generated the breakthrough by switching to the “approach mode” – moving towards what’s wanted. He did this by simply asking a different question:
What if we started out with a blank piece of paper, and designed something new that was ‘the best of the best’?
The team immediately started thinking and communicating differently. Within 5 minutes they’d agreed on what they were aiming for. From there, they found it really easy to see the way forward and start taking action.
What can we learn from this story?
If you’re seeing deadlock and disagreement, check for the avoidance mode. Are people focused solely on what’s wrong, and how to avoid it?
If so, try shifting to the approach mode. Just start asking questions like “What are we aiming for here?” and see how things start to change.