The Rule of Three

Until you can define the problem in three different ways, you don’t really understand the problem.

– From Donald C. Gause and Gerald Weinberg’s excellent book Are your lights on? 

This is sage advice, because how you define your problem dictates how you attempt to solve it. Quick fixes are often attempted because the problem solver cannot look beyond the perceived gap and tries to resolve discrepancies immediately. This leads to solution-chasing behavior, where new fixes are attempted to close the gap, but the situation worsens because the underlying root cause is left unaddressed. 

Never mistake a solution to be your problem, especially if it is your own solution. Too often we are enamored by our solutions, and we consider these magic pills for all kinds of problems. Many managers make this mistake where they assume that they can push their favored techniques as solutions onto others. Acts of leadership on the other hand are empowering. Leaders enable people to take action on their own terms.

Check out our article on Leadership stances for problem-solving to find out how leaders approach problem-solving.


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