How To Solve Problems: It's all about 'Key logs'...

I have a friend/entrepreneur who built one of the more successful board games/idea guy whom I grab lunch with about once a year. It's always a great conversation covering everything and nothing.The conversations leave me inspired. He leaves me with great ideas and at least one priceless nugget.  My most recent conversation with him was no different, all because of key logs...

During our discussion about everything and nothing he shared a summer camp story when his camp leader taught him about the key log and how important it is in unclogging a logjam. My friend is a story teller and I could visualize the logjam,  a crowded mass of logs blocking a river (like below), as he told me the story.

That jam started from one log. Despite how crazy the jam is (like most jams) it starts from one log. The jam comes from one log intersecting with another log. That one log is called the key log. Move that log and, even though there is still some log moving to do, the jam is loosened. Therein lies the core point

The real work of clearing a log jam is not in moving logs around, the real work is in finding and moving or removing the key log. 

Same thinking applies to most business problems. No matter how complicated the problem, there is a core issue. Find that core issue and the secondary issues become easier to deal with. Most people I know (who aren't consultants :)) are wired/react to problems by immediately jumping to solutions before getting a real understanding of the core of the problem. I see it all the time

  • Sales is slow or is suffering. So we fire the salesperson. Might the key log/core issue actually be that the product is no longer serving the customers need? Or that the product isn't a good one?
  • Personal example: Your son is rebelling and you ground the child. Maybe thekey log/core issue is that you need to spend more time with the child?
  • Customers are not signing up for your website so you spend more on social media ads. Might the real issue be that you haven't clearly articulated or figured out the value proposition for your business?

There is still a lot of work after moving or solving the key log or core issue but the work is made easier once you've taken a step back to figure out the key issue.

This simple key log heuristic applies to all forms of problem solving.  You do not need to be crazy smart, trained or certified to take the simple step of pausing and getting to the core of a problem before going about trying to solve it. It's served my friend very well personally and professionally.

It might just serve you as well..