Monday, June 13, 2016

No Longer Unsolvable Association Problems

Life is full of coincidences.

I was facing a particular challenge at work, something I finally figured out I was too close to and was not seeing clearly. Reaching out to a colleague in another industry, I described the situation to him, and he gave me his perspective on it. The way he would handle the challenge were he faced with it was not necessarily the way I wanted to deal with my challenge, but hearing his perspective gave me the measure of objectivity I was looking for and helped me determined the course I needed to take.

The very next day, with my course of action solidified in my mind but not yet acted upon, I was browsing through the blogs I follow, and came across the following passage in an Unsolvable Association Problems post on Amanda Kaiser's Smooth the Path blog.

When we are too close to the problem we tend to narrow our thinking. The trick is to broaden our thinking and develop many more reasonable solutions to add to the discussion. Here are some ideas: (1) Have dialogue/brainstorm with a trusted person from the outside: outside your staff or outside your industry.

There were more suggestions after that first one, but I was struck by how much the advice paralleled the experience I had just had the evening before. And because of the practical experience I had just had, I suddenly not only saw the value in Kaiser's advice, but it made me think twice about all the other passages in all the other blogs I follow but typically skim through.

How much wisdom, I wondered, am I glossing over, simply because I'm in a rush to start my busy day in the office and because I don't similarly have daily experiences that match what I'm reading. It was a sobering thought, because I know now that I'm way more likely to seek the advice of this colleague in the future, not just because he's already helped me once, but because that success was reinforced the very next day by something I happened to read online.

Those are the kind of coincidences I can live with. I just wish there was a way to engineer them.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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