by Dean Witherspoon   Dean's profile on LinkedIn  

You’d have to agree, wellness isn’t rocket science — it may be more difficult. Getting people to change behavior ingrained over decades can be tough, even if it’s in their own best interest. To underscore the thought, consider that we’ve successfully landed a robot on Mars, yet we achieved less than 25% of the CDC’s Healthy People 2010 objectives.

Sometimes as wellness managers we think we know the solution before we’ve even asked questions. Problem solving — whether at NASA or in your wellness program — is most successful if you have a method. Here are some approaches to use on your most vexing challenges.

  1. Know exactly what you want to solve. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how complicated some wellness professionals make things. If you want people to eat healthier, is it really necessary for them to calculate fat grams, understand exchanges, or differentiate between hydrogenated and nonhydrogenated fats? Keep the problem simple; it makes the solution easier.

  2. Learn everything you can about how others have solved this or a similar problem. In addition to reviewing standard literature, work your network. Call everyone you know (email works too) about your concern and ask if they or (someone they know) have been successful in resolving that area.

  3. Call in help. We all know creative folks inside and outside our industry. Connect with them on LinkedIn and contact them when you face a new challenge. Sometimes the best wellness solutions come from those not up to their elbows in it every day.

  4. Practice problem solving. It’s easy to get in a mind-numbing rut of cranking out the work each day. Set time aside to do the brain teasers and puzzles.

  5. "Draw" a solution. Put pen to paper, or magic marker to white board, and sketch solutions — how things would look if the problem were solved. 

  6. Dump. Old-fashioned, nonjudging, spill-your-thoughts-out brainstorming creates "idea volume." Having a lot to choose from is usually more productive than searching for the single right idea. After they’re all out of your brain you can try them on; if one doesn’t fit, move on to the next.

  7. Change the view. Most people don’t experience inspiration while concentrating on a sheet of paper with the problem statement written across the top. It comes while watching a movie, driving to work, eating dinner, reading the paper, taking a shower, waiting for the plane. If solutions aren’t pouring out, relocate or focus on something else for a while to get creative. 

  8. Know when to fold up. If at first you don’t succeed, quit. If you’ve done 1. through 7. above and you’re still right where you started, give up for now. You may have taken on a problem you can’t solve. There are lots of other challenges you can tackle, so move on.

Not solving a problem isn’t failure; not trying is. In attempting to find a solution you always learn something, even if it’s what doesn’t work.

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