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  • Writer's pictureJoel Alpert

Playing “Business WhacK-A-Mole”? The Problem With Problem-Solving Will Hit You Over The Head!

For spelling fams, Whac-A-Mole iand Whack-A-Mole are both correct. The first is the original video game.

The reason why Customer Journey Mapping has evolved into a “thing” is because we need to understand what our prospects and customers want at any given stage, and meet those needs. Makes, sense, right?

In this particular example — of the actions you take to address prospect and customer interests — it's easiest to think of your customer’s interests as a mobile app:

What direction do they want to go in next?

What buttons are they going to press now?

Where might that go next after that?

If that process works well, you’ve got smooth proactive sailing. If it doesn’t, you’re tossing around in a tumultuous sea.

In the example of an app, you're creating a journey — you are definitely solving a problem — one that we hope is clear and provides a good user experience..

In many examples of business problems that pop up in everyday business life… too often you're (only) solving problems.

Aren't we all "problem-solving" in multiple areas of business— Strategy, Branding, Management, HR — and isn't that a good thing?

Doesn’t it sound like problem-solving is exactly what any responsible business owner should do?

Are we going to let problems ran rampant, , cause problems, and damage our businesses?

Seems to make immediate and obvious sense that we should solve problems, address those issues as soon as they come up.

But wait… let’s step back.

We might observe that many business issues seem to reoccur.

So when we keep "solving" many day-to-day problems that pop up, aren't we just whacking away at them, like the Whac-A-Mole game? Don't we want to engineer our actions as much as possible to be more like a well-designed app?

There may be more here than meets the eye, and unmasking some of it may be a great service. Here's my take on insights gained from extensive training with Robert Fritz, Inc.:

When we react and respond, we’re solving a problem. (Duh!) However, it’s a short-term way of dealing with the issue.

We grab a mallet and "Whack-A-Mole" to kill the problem. Our motivation: We want to make the problem go away.!

The only problem is the mole pops up — again and again and again! — and bites you on the butt! Arrrrrrrrrrgh!

So wait… problem-solving is primarily a short-term way of dealing with business issues?

Strategic Thinking & the Problem with Problem-Solving — How Many Issues Become Management Problems

You've seen it. These recurring problems — and recurring actions — happen in many areas of business. Are these examples familiar at all?

  • Strategy, where the company wants to expand and grow, then they want to downsize.

  • Or Rebranding, where the company thinks their messaging and customer service functions are on target, sme in the company think products and services have evolved off brand

  • Recruitment or Capacity problems — keeps the business from growing when sales come in

  • High turnover — because of inadequate salaries, or bad work environment

  • Employee Frustration — they want to do a good job, but did management define goals, provide resources and pathways, or change the plan midstream again?

  • Or Organizational Management, OMG are you serious? Another reorg?

We think we should "solve" these problems..but there's an ironic dynamic that tends to occur with problem-solving:

You gotta problem ⬇️

  • At first, we take lots of action to get rid of this big bad problem . . ⬇️

  • Yay, some improvement.

  • So now we need to take less action. After all, it's some gone._ ⬇️

  • But then — yikes! — since there's less "problem solving" effort being exerted, the problem pushes back again.

  • And the problem you thought you killed, comes back ,…and says (in the voice of Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons):

"Hah-hah! Whacked you over the head…AGAIN!"

The difference between "problem-solving" and "creating results…

…is like the difference between deleting emails again and again and again… or …unsubscribing.

It's like the difference between demolition and architecture. With demolition, you're trying to get rid of something. With architecture, you're designing and building.

So why do smart businesspeople run around "solving problems"? They do it for good reason!

It's obvious that businesspeople want to solve a problem. Who wouldn't want their problem to go away?!

However, a remarkable irony is that the motivation for wanting to solve the problem in the short-term occurs even among the smartest owners, directors, and managers, Especially the smartest folks. Why? Because they're the most capable. And they can!

They want to add their good skills and expertise to help their team and the business solve these problems. But if you've gotten this far, you get the idea about what doesn't work in those well-meaning actions, if they keep recurring..

Some owners and managers like to be "firefighters" and put out the fire whenever it rages — they're good at it, and they see it as a service. Often this phenomenon is unseen because we're running around "doing"…... instead of stepping back for an overview.

There’s life beyond Whac-A-Mole. We can engage in "problem solving" more effectively by addressing the cause of an issue. And creating a solution orientation that’s build around what you want (not what you don’t want).

We all have a lot to learn in this area. Because we’re human.…and we want to use our superpowers for the good. But let’s direct them to really produce what we want.

This orientation — about "creating results" — is pivotal for small-medium business and solopreneurs,… not just the Fortune 500.

To bastardize the poetry of Rumi… “there’s life beyond reaction and responding. There’s a field where we put structure into place that works. I'll meet you there.”

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INSIGHT 4) Stop Whac-A-Mole Problem-Solving, it’s better for you, and the moles won't have headaches!

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If you’d like to see the rest of the series,

“2023: Gain These 7 Powerful Insights On Strategy & Branding”

it's here — along with other "thinking goodies" — on the PowerBlog!

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Joel Alpert is Chief Lightbulb of MarketPower. His expertise includes strategic thinking, brand identity, marketing communications, direct marketing, personal branding, and more. He draws on the expertise of his mentor Robert Fritz, who has developed many key distinctions ‚— this one between "problem solving" and "creating." "Whac-A-Mole" is a Hasbro game — it's better if that's not the game you're playing in business..

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