Stop Solving New Problems with Old Solutions

My son inspired me today. For a while I’ve noticed that when he plays with his cars (he is one and a half) he pushes them in a different way from anything I have ever seen before. Rather than holding the car at the top and swinging his hand in a sort of pendulum motion, he almost punches the back of the car with his hand (see a video of it here).


I found myself trying to correct his technique one day when I realized that it was not only working, it was better than the way I was going to show him. My eighteen-month-old son, had shown me a new way to solve an old problem, and that got me to thinking:

Why do we continue to try to solve new problems with old solutions?


A key to resilience is the ability to effectively adapt. If you want to be more effective and relevant tomorrow than you are today, you absolutely must be adaptable. I found a meme just like the one below a few days ago. I remember most of these, how about you? How many have you owned?

What struck me was how something can evolve in such a short period of time.  The phone on the left came out in 1998. In twenty years, the solution to the problem of staying in touch while away from home, has evolved to the point that many people don’t even have a home phone anymore. The mobile phone went from a luxury to being so ubiquitous, most of us would feel lost without it.


The cellphone is still really about solving the same problem it did when in 1998 – it allows us to stay continuously connected. Over time, that problem has evolved from the simple need to be reachable away from a landline, to the desire to ordering food, listen to music, and do our banking in the palm of our hand. As the problem evolved, so did the solution.


I suspect the latest phone you have in your hand today will feel just as archaic in twenty years as that Motorola 8900X-2 does to us now. Who knows, we may not have the need for a device at all by then. It may well just be a chip in our brain.


Here’s the point:  if the “solution” to being able to communicate while we’re away from home has evolved as the problem evolved, why can’t we be equally creative with how we address the other challenges we face? We are we so creative at adapting in one field, while being hopelessly archaic in another?


I am amazed, for example, that most people still give up 5-6% (often $10,000+) to have a realtor sell their home, when the internet gives everyone access to market and sell their home on their own (we’ve done it). It seems silly to me that most people are still driving to the mall to shop when Amazon will deliver almost anything you can imagine, to your door, in less than three days. Many of us even try to solve our personal problems with old, childhood, solutions. Don’t believe me? Scroll the comment thread of any controversial Facebook post to see grown adults virtually yelling at each other like eight-year-olds on a playground.


If you want to be relevant and valuable in the years to come, despite the continuous changes, some you haven’t even anticipated yet, be more creative in the way you solve problems.