We can be working, in the car, at the shops, on holiday, you name it, there is no stopping the compulsive problem solver from engaging either creative or logical problem solving to get the job done.
I remember being on holiday in the Lake District one year with my family. My wife we trying on shoes and I sat and waited while she tried on pair after pair. As she went about her business I was browsing the shop, looking for all things good, bad or indifferent about everything from the staff to the merchandising. As I scanned the environment, I noticed two light bulbs which had blown. One was meant to light up the display and the other was an ambient light which was meant to light a corner of the shop.
The lack of lighting in both areas was clearly having a negative impact on the selling capacity of the buying environment so I took it upon myself to raise this with a member of staff as she passed a pair of shoes to my wife.
"Did you know that there are two lights out?" I remarked as I point them out individually. There then followed an awkward silence which seemed to last for some time although in reality it was probably no more than a second or two. I couldn't quite fathom her repsonse immediately although I'd say it was a blend of two things both combined in one facial expression that will stay with me forever.
It was like she was saying to me on the one hand, "What's it got do with you Pal?" and on the other it was as though I had just shouted a rude word in the middle of a public library or insulted a close and recently departed member of her family.
Both looks culminated in a shoulder shrugging gesture and an incomprehendable verbal response which clearly conveyed something along the lines of "it's not my job, what are you telling me for?"
Call me a genius but I reckon she was neither the owner nor the shop manager, or if she was I expect the business wasn't doing as well as it might have otherwise done. I didn't have to be Mary Queen of Shops to figure that one out.
Problem solving starts with the detail in my opinion. Just as an artist is meticulous in every area of detail, so should our staff and those who profess to sympathise with our vision. If someone isn't passionate about the detail or the small stuff, I would have no hesitation in keeping them a million miles from anything in the business which might be considered of major importance.
Any business is made up of details. It might be the tone we use on the phone with clients, the speed at which we respond to emails, the way that a product is finished and quality checked or the degree of research we choose to undertake to ensure that a new product idea is worthy of the £75,000 investment you are planning to invest into it.
Either way, our role as business leaders is to engender and architect a culture which celebrates the detail, which promotes the mundane and rewards ownership at every level.
Someone once said "What gets measured gets managed, and what gets managed gets done". In this context it can be translated to mean "measure the little things that together create a mindset of collective ownership across the business and don't allow the opposite spirit to prevail".