Making Progress or Solving Problems?

I am often confronted with groups of people who want me to help them find ‘solutions’ to problems that cannot be solved. I guess it is just an occupational hazard. What kind of insoluble problems am I talking about? Well here are some examples:

  • A transition to a sustainable economy
  • A need to reduce costs significantly and quickly without damaging service delivery and without a culture and history of innovation
  • A transformation from a grant funded service provider to a financially independent ‘social enterprise’
  • Selling enough art to do more than just survive
  • Palestine/Israel, Most of the West v much of the East etc

Politicians may offer us roadmaps to peace.

Business advisers may sell us plans and strategies carefully crafted to achieve pre-defined goals.

Activists may plan the perfect campaign.

But they almost never work.  At least not as planned, because they are coming from the perspective of the ‘performance agenda’.  ‘Smart’ people proffering ‘smart’ solutions.

If we approach ‘problems’ with a ‘learning agenda’ we would ask what can we do about them – now.  How can we act in a way that might move us forwards in some way?  We would do stuff.  Learn and then do more stuff. And do more learning. We have to learn to act and reflect, act and reflect, act and reflect: with a real intention to make things ‘better’ and a realisation that we might ‘fail’.  But at least our actions will inform, our learning.

We have to welcome the possibility that ‘we don’t know’ as a certainty and as a friend.


2 responses to “Making Progress or Solving Problems?

  1. We’re attempting a couple from the above list Mike.

    Our work at Sumy State uni on economics in transition for example

    There’s also the “soft power” economic development strategy which seems be creating influence, the context is Pakistan

  2. Harry Fortune

    And the learning part is half the fun – embrace the learning as you would embrace a friend.

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