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  • Russ Shumaker

Avoid This Mistake

One of the simplest mistakes leadership often makes is failing to properly identify the difference between an ADAPTIVE CHALLENGE and a TECHNICAL PROBLEM.


The solution to a technical problem lies in authority and expertise: Leadership simply tells people what to do, and it is usually something that the organization is already supposed to be doing.


The solution to an adaptive challenge, however is quite different. Adaptive challenges are solved by a change in "people's priorities, beliefs, habits, and loyalties." A top down, authoritative prescription won't fix this kind of problem, and will likely lead to more confusion and dysfunction.


​Of course, some problems are a combination of the two. Brian Leavy uses the illustration of a heart surgery: The surgery itself is a technical solution provided by the surgeon. But the root of the problem is adaptive, and requires the person with the bad heart to stop smoking and start exercising, which will only occur through an internal change.

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