Sunday, August 26, 2007

Thinking out of the box

One of the common skill mentioned in web analytics job postings is worded as "strong problem solving". Problem solving is a skill anyone can learn, but there are some ingredients that are essential: an innovative mindset is one of them.

One of the latest ChangeThis manifesto highlights the seven pitfalls to avoid in order to break the mold of traditional thinking:
  1. Shortcutting: Avoid leaping to solutions; a "blink" solution often hide deeper causes. Although most problems don't require us to analyze them very deeply, when faced with more complex challenges we have a tendency to jump to conclusions.
  2. Blindspots: Experience often leads the way and can make us blind to what we are less comfortable with. We have to force ourselves to break the mold and think differently.
  3. Not invented here: Sometimes it's worth to consider and trust other's solutions.
  4. Satisficing: When we satisfy from a solution that will suffice... we satisfice. We compromise, instead of going for the best solution, we go for the less negative one.
  5. Downgrading: Lower the bar and it's a lot easier to achieve success! Avoid overselling the upsides and shuttering the downsides...
  6. Complicating: Seeing things more complex than they really are is an easy justification to add cost and time and reassure us in our lack of comfort when confronted with the unknown.
  7. Stifling: Dismissing altogether, or second guessing one's idea if favor of our own.
I've worked in environments where over half of those pitfalls where commonly seen without even realizing it was happening. Younger and less formal organizations often fall for the not invented here, shortcuting while older organization are more prone to satisfice and stifle. It's insidious, and it's often part of the corporate culture.

The web analyst is often an agent of change and an evangelist within the organization. Developing an innovative mindset and problem solving skills is rarely presented in formal training, but just being aware of the pitfalls is already a good start.