Using the word ‘solution’ implies we can fix it [whatever ‘it’ might be]. We do something, and then the problem goes away.
But what about more complex challenges like our relationships, or a company culture, or the climate? We can’t ‘fix’ any of these – there’s not a simple ‘thing’ we can do that will make the problem go away. Instead, we need a different approach – we need to think about a response, rather than a solution.
Thinking in terms of solutions encourages us to break things into component parts, looking for shortcuts and hacks and quick fixes.
A response requires a more subtle, nuanced approach. It recognises that many elements are interacting within a system, and that effective action will take time and patience.
There is a time and place for both solutions and responses.
Facing a fire? Then put it out!
Facing your third fire this week? Hmm. It still needs putting out – a solution – but it probably also needs a response: why do these fires keep starting in the first place?
The key is not overthinking our response to immediate emergencies, and also not approaching complex challenges with a solution mindset.
As always, there is a balance to be found [somewhere!], but when we find ourselves repeatedly facing the same challenge, it’s probably worth asking – does this need a solution, or a response?