How to Kill Problem Solving Before It Begins


I hate tailgating. I’m not talking about the type of tailgating that occasionally happens when someone isn’t paying attention; I’m talking about deliberate tailgating. The kind where you can’t even see the headlights of the person behind you. Slamming on the brakes isn’t an option. They are so that if you touch the brakes they will end up in your back seat! Then they start flashing their lights (like you could see them) and blasting their horn! Have you ever had one of these knuckleheads on your tail? How do you usually respond? Do you get angry? Do you “flip them off” or just give them the evil eye as they pass by? If you had your way, what do you think should be done to these folks?

  1. $500 ticket.

  2. Take away their license.

  3. Put them in jail.

  4. All of the above.

It is interesting how quickly we conjure up an answer. I call these instant opinions “Blitz-Ops”. There are two problems with BlitzOps. First, they are based on incomplete and inadequate information. Secondly, by nature, we are then subject to the problem of a “Confirmation Bias”. We gather facts to support our point of view and ignore then ones that don’t. In medical research, the confirmation bias is well recognized and it is the reason that we have double blinded trials where neither the researcher nor the patient know who is actually receiving the study medication.

In the above example, how would your perspective change if you knew that the person driving the car was trying to get to the hospital because his son fell out of a tree and he is lying on the seat next to him completely unconscious.

When we are trying to solve problems, the issue of BlitzOps and the ensuing Confirmation Bias can blind opportunity and kill options. Sir Francis of Assisi said it well back in 1200: “Seek first to understand….” Resist the temptation to form a rapid opinion.

"If you want to find answers others don’t find, ask the questions others don’t ask." - Dan Diamond, MD