It’s not broken. Just read the directions.

by | Jan 19, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

Excerpted from my upcoming book on problem-finding, a comical lesson in the importance of a pause in the face of a problem to consider the details before jumping to action.

Several years ago I bought a drill press for an artist friend of mine. A drill press is an electric drill mounted on a base. Because the drill is on a base and not handheld, it allows the operator to set the precise depth, angle and width of each hole. My friend was drilling holes in wooden blocks for an exhibit she was working on. The drill press made her work easier, quicker and more accurate than a hand held drill.

After we assembled the drill press, we noticed that there was a wonderful little work light that would shine directly on the point where the drill bit contacts the wood. We were delighted. This would make it easier to see exactly where to drill the hole.

We plugged in the drill and flipped the light switch. Nothing. It was BROKEN!

We quickly determined that this brand new drill must have been shipped with a defective light. We took off the housing around the light to see if we could get to it, because we knew we were going to have to replace that light bulb.

Fast forward 30 minutes; we had removed several pieces of this brand new drill. We even called the store to see if they had lightbulbs in stock.

Then I noticed a battery in the packing materials.

Then I looked closer at the directions.

Then we found the battery compartment for the work light.

The work light was powered by a battery and not by the electrical power that powered the drill. There was nothing wrong with the lightbulb. In our haste, we didn’t look closely at the directions. Battery inserted. Switch flipped. Voila, the light is on.

We were solving the wrong problem. A problem that didn’t even exist.

We had defined the problem with the light as a broken bulb. And we were sure of it.

The real problem was that we didn’t read the directions to learn that the bulb was powered by a separate battery. Reading the directions that came with the drill solved this problem. It pays to look for all of the details.

Looking for all of the details is one of four mindsets that I explore in my new book, Solve the Real Problem. Discover how to consciously change your mindset so you can find the best problem to solve – not just a symptom.

We are making great progress on Solve the Real Problem. It will be released in a few months!

Here is a link to pre-order. Thanks for reading!

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Through a series of structured learning experiences, you will learn to become deliberately creative and build your skills to lead innovation teams in your organization. You will be instructed by Dr. Roger Firestien who has presented programs on innovation to over 600 organizations around the world including: fortune 500 corporations, government agencies, universities, associations and religious institutions.


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