Review of Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg’s What’s Your Problem?

What is the thesis of this book? According to Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg, it consists of two separate but related insights: “The way you frame a problem determines which solutions you come up with,” and, “By shifting the way you see the problem — that is, by reframing it — you can sometimes find radically better solutions.”

TIME OUT: Please re-read the opening paragraph at least once.  Then stare out a window and think about it before returning to this brief commentary. OK? Go. And thank you.

Years ago, Ted Levitt suggested, “People don’t want quarter-inch drills. They want quarter-inch holes.” When people have questions, they need answers. When they have problems, they need solutions.

As you probably know already, most people tend to focus on the symptoms rather than on the root causes of the problems they attempt to solve. They mow weeds, for example. Problem solved, at least for a day or two. Wedell-Wedellsborg wrote this book to delineate the aforementioned two-part thesis. His focus is on framing, and, reframing.

Framing enables you to concentrate on solving “the right problem” whereas reframing enables you to relocate the right problem to “a different context”. Wedell-Wedellsborg offers an excellent case in point in Chapter 3: The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn, New York.

THE RIGHT PROBLEM: How to get the benefits of serving food without the hassle that comes with it?

THE RIGHT SOLUTION: Build an adjacent garage for one of New York’s ubiquitous food trucks to be parked every night, feeding the customers.

“The solution is brilliant. As the food preparation is done entirely inside the food truck, using the driver’s [or owner’s] food permit without the hassle of getting a food license. At the same time, the model gives [the RPSC owners] the freedom to select different food types depending on the day and the season.”

Consider the book’s subtitle: “To Solve Your Toughest Problems, Change the Problems You Solve.” That’s accurate but, in my opinion, insufficient. How so?

Wedell-Wedellsborg will help those who read his book to develop a very specific mindset that includes but is by no means limited to problem solving. The information, insights, and counsel he provides will help readers to combine the mental equivalent of 3D vision with a 360° perspective.  It will also help readers to sharpen skills that include force field analysis, cause-and-effect relationships, cost-benefit/risk-reward ratios, and — along the way — discovering a few of their “unknown unknowns” that have no doubt caused all manner of problems in the past.

I also want to call your attention to one of this book’s substantial value-added benefits: Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg’s wit. His generously annotated “notes” section — all by itself — is worth several times more than cost of the book.

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