Problem-solving is highly valued in businesses. Without a doubt, solving critical issues is essential to thriving companies. Business executives are paid handsomely to fix errors and turn a loss into a profit. Moreover, many businesses assume problems will happen and issue hefty sums for solution management.
But what if we invert this logic? Instead of focusing on problem-solving, turn attention to problem prevention. It’s an emerging trend that enormous cybersecurity issues have accelerated. According to CySec experts VIPRE Security group, two-thirds of small or medium businesses would halt operations or close after a successful data breach.
In this example, problem-solving is not an efficient solution. Yet problem prevention is. Building a robust cybersecurity system would prevent data breaches.
Another illustrative example is the Covid-19 pandemic. How many businesses were factually prepared for the global pandemic? It’s not like there weren’t any warning signs. In 2015 Bill Gates gave a TED talk watched by more than 36 million people. He emphasized the inevitability of the next global pandemic. After all, there were four worldwide pandemics in the previous century. Why should it stop in the new millennia?
Psychological Problem-Solving Premises
One of the issues is that people tend to focus on contemporary problems. Thinking about “here and now” is more manageable. From the individual perspective, people treat ailments when they arise. Smokers often quit smoking after being diagnosed with health issues. It doesn’t matter how many warning statements are on a pack of cigarettes.
It’s a wishful thinking problem. Expecting nothing bad will happen is human nature. Moreover, ignoring the warning signs is easier than taking immediate action. There’s also an adrenaline rush when overcoming difficulties.
But that’s no good for business management. Businesses prioritize problem-solving positions by rewarding them more than other competencies. Once again, problem-solving is essential. But it should not overcome problem prevention.
A critical error is thinking it’s not worth investment if nothing bad is happening. For example, cybersecurity specialists find it burdensome to illustrate their effectiveness. If the cybersecurity department is doing its job, the result is uneventful. Hackers tried to attack, failed, and nothing happened. Over time, business owners may choose to reduce funding because they deem it unnecessary.
The same extends to other spheres. Remember the 2008 housing bubble crisis? Several major financial institutions failed to react to warning signs. Meanwhile, investors were betting on unprecedented profits, ignoring the more significant frail housing market predicament.
Learning to Prevent Problems Before They Happen
Businesses should learn from past mistakes. An obvious one is that preparation must not be limited to problem-solving. In the XXI century, it is becoming clear that some problems are too big to handle. Before 2008, it was considered that some banks were too big to fail. Yet they failed nevertheless. What can we learn from that?
Firstly, it’s essential to rely on the warning signs. An excellent example is Big Data. Businesses have unprecedented access to enormous knowledge repositories. Instead of relying on intuition, they can base decisions on factual and verifiable data. For example, the healthcare industry relies on Big Data to prevent diseases.
The lesson here is to keep up with innovations. The term Big Data was first used in the 1990s. But it’s only with the recent advancement in computer computational power that Big Data analytics revealed its true potential. Business owners should invest more in R&D departments and include the Big Data analytics branch. Moreover, they should focus on identifying potential problems before they happen.
We could define this attitude as proactive management versus reactive management. Reactive management relies on problem-solving ignoring its roots. Or focusing on the why after the fact. For some time, it’s been an unregulated capitalist practice, focusing on profits first – après moi, le déluge (‘After me, the flood’). The current ecological crisis is related to this logical fallacy.
The most tangible contemporary example is cybersecurity. For example, the management of internal documents and user permissions. Let’s take a look at Facebook’s password mismanagement. In 2019, it was discovered that the company stores passwords in an unencrypted form.
What’s more, passwords were widely available to employees. There is no need to leave passwords accessible in plain text to many employees. This calls for trouble. Businesses should implement strict internal document management practices, which include user permissions. Defining who can access what information is critical for problem prevention. The same logic extends to other data. Clients’ confidential data should be accessible only to relevant employees. Moreover, it should be adequately encrypted.
Another illustrative example is enterprise password management. One of the biggest hacks of the last year halted Colonial Pipeline operations for several days. Moreover, the intrusion happened due to faulty password management. Cybersecurity experts tried for decades to improve enterprise password management. It’s a perfect example of a proactive approach. Yes, healthy password management includes additional steps. Often it would be best if you sacrificed some comfort for security. However, with the introduction of widely used password managers, there’s no good reason to stick to old “password123” practices.
To summarize, learning to prevent problems is a change in attitude. Some problems are preventable, and some aren’t. Rely on modern technology to distinguish one from the other. Furthermore, invest as much in problem prevention as in problem-solving. These two departments should work hand-in-hand.