Lebowski treats the sport of bowling as metaphor for life. His biographer explains that the ball, the lane, the pins, each of them are reminders that we are not the adversary of our problems, rather, we are a partner with them. You may be thinking to yourself, yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man. But the relationship we have with our problems, especially within the context of a business, can be transformative to our ability to do create value. Think of it as a continuum from left to right. Ignoring problems is unwise. Noticing problems is good. Solving problems is great. But creating a tool that helps everyone on your team better identify and solve problems in the future, now that’s gold. Serious enterprise value. Systemic improvement. Which is what lays a foundation for scale. Anytime you create company wide solutions that help the whole team get to the next level on problem solving, everybody wins. This work creates a rising tide that lifts all boats.
SNIFFING -- The practice of converting your curiosity into everyone else's utility
The good news is, anybody in the company can use this tool. You don’t need to set a meeting with the entire dev team, you simply need to convert curiosity into utility. It’s a matter of taking ownership. Ask the question, how can the problem of one become a chance to improve day to day operations for everyone? Percolate, the popular content management platform, touts this problem solving process as key to their success as a tech startup. The founder explained, business is built upon creating products that solve problems for organizations, everyone’s brain at the company should be focused on what is packageable, repeatable and shareable. And the most compelling reason for building internal tools early may be the employees you haven’t hired yet. Tools help immerse everyone in your culture and make it easier for them to contribute right away.
Chase earned a lot of press recently by launching an internal tool to grade online videos for brand appropriateness. The algorithm safeguarded against unsavory, broad categories such as terrorist content and helped marketing teams blacklist and whitelist certain marketing channels before running their ads. Facebook actually has an entire internal tools team whose sole job function is to make work simpler for their coworkers. All they do is solve problems by making tools for the team, all day. Naturally, these examples are far more robust than anything a scrappy little startup or even a small business might undertake. But the ethos is the same.
It all goes back to your ability to partner with problems. That’s where every tool begins. Then again, that might just be, like, my opinion, man. Are you noticing problems, or creating useful resources to help everyone on your team solve them?
Become known as a problem solver who makes people’s jobs easier
Build enterprise value at your company beyond your primary job function
Train your brain to notice whitespaces and opportunities into which value can be created.
Position yourself as a consistent source of holistic, systematic improvement for the organization