To solve or not to solve? Is that the question?

Sometimes in exploring the ethical dimensions of changemaking, I get to the point of wondering whether not solving the problem is actually ethically better than solving it. But then I wonder whether that is the right question to ask at all. Perhaps there is a third option to whether to solve or not solve a problem.

A few years back I was heading up a business development team at a mid-sized nonprofit, as we were going through a significant turnaround of the operation. The stakes were high, and the existing business model was by-and-large ineffective. It was not hitting mission spectacularly, and was draining cash. The staff were investing enormous love and energy to make this work.

It was a creative time that required the team to be highly entrepreneurial. We were needing to be quick and agile in identifying problems and coming up with creative solutions. We were up for the challenge, enjoying it and most of the time doing pretty well.

I started to observe though that as soon as we solved a problem, a new one often emerged. We seemed to be on this endless cycle of problem-solution-problem-solution. We got in this rhythm of being ‘fix-it’ people, always on the ready to fix what was not working. We were champions for what the social consciousness was telling the world about the need to be ‘solutions-focused’. Read more