Vaccinate Against Solutionitis

Driven by urgency to discover and enact solutions, leaders often fail to first fully understand the context and causes of problems.

Soldiers from U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters climb an obstacle during a noncommissioned officer professional development event at Fort Bragg, N.C., March 16, 2012. The Soldiers negotiated the obstacles and provided teamwork when necessary to complete each station.Timothy L. Hale
Image credit

Melrose Huang, writing for the Carnegie Foundation, defines solutionitis as the tendency to seize on solutions without adequate study of the problem or the context and system that produces the problem.  She further describes the problem with quick fixes is that they fail to address the entirety of complex problems.

Leaders who want to vaccinate themselves against solutionitis should answer these types of questions before committing to any solutions:

  • Have they discovered the cause of the problem?
  • Are they fixated with or championing a particular solution without considering alternatives or other perspectives?
  • Have they involved those who will implement the solution in its development?

Lillian Kivel, also writing for the Carnegie Foundation, recognizes the unfortunate appeal of solutionitis to educational leaders,

“Today in education, we are trying to achieve increasingly high aspirations. Simultaneously, key resources, such as time and money, seem constantly shrinking. Under this pressure of rising expectations and limited supports, we often rush to find solutions. The silver bullet that will suddenly help us to evaluate teachers seamlessly or that plug-and-play curriculum that will ensure high levels of student engagement are presented as solutions to pressing problems.”

How else can leaders resist the allure of jumping to quick fixes and instead commit to first investigating the causes and contexts of problems?  Share  your thoughts with me via Twitter