There was a time when the logic of things started with a why, followed with a what and ended in a how. The logic has now been inverted. The colossal availability of the how invites you to bypass the original sequence. The new sequence is how, what, and sometimes why. The ‘how-to takeover’ has created a culture of solutionism. It’s embedded in education: how to answer an academic question is a click away in Google, you don’t need to know why the question is there in the first place.
For every problem, there is a how-to-YouTube-answer (my teenagers seem to imply). In fact, there is a whole industry of how-to-do-things, from getting fit to fixing a boiler.
Management is not immune. The doer culture is a premium. We recruit solutionists in greater numbers than thinkers, let alone critical thinkers. But, who can blame anybody for wishing to have people who provide solutions? After all, if I have a problem with the boiler, I’ll try to get hold of a professional fixer, not somebody who thinks about the physics of water and electricity, let alone asking me why I want to have hot water ( and send me a bill for the question)
But when it comes to management and leadership, if we reduce everything to a problem solving, and reward this above everything else, we will create a culture of problems, crisis and proficiency in dealing with them. I have expressed this before in these Daily Thoughts.
Management needs to protect itself against the epidemic of the inverted logic of the how-what-why. It needs to resist temptations for a culture of solutionism, and put a premium on the why-what-how. Obvious as it may seem, the silent takeover of the new logic clouds our mind and gives us an illusion of control because we have become proficient on the how.
Not resisting this, will end up suppressing the primacy of the why. Achieving this milestone will trigger the terminal illness of the lack of critical thinking. In that disease, anything goes as long as we know how to do many things, as many as possible, as busy as possible, and as irrelevant as thyy may be. Logic will be deleted from the corporate DNA.
“Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”
— Peter Drucker