There is a big difference between the probe “What’s wrong?” and the probe “What works?”
Below you will find a graphic based on the thinking of a successful architect. Peter Saurcerman, an architect for 35 years in Northern California. He believes that groups thinking together in response to the “What works?” probe will be more effective than individuals thinking in response to the “What’s wrong” probe. As an architect, he sees great value in people thinking together when designing and bringing plans to life.
“What’s wrong?” thinking leads to certain questions – you see some of those in the graphic below in the column labeled Segregated Services Mentality. Whereas below under the heading Interdependent Services Mentality – the “What works?” column, you will find questions that reflect the direction of thinking launched from the initial stimulus of “What works?”.
Let’s think bigger than just the planning and building of a structure. Here are possible situations that might prompt someone, or a group of people, to begin to travel down a probing path that starts with either, “What’s wrong?” or What works?”:
A less than normal sales total for a business for July of 2013 compared to July of 2012, 2011 and 2010.
A school district of 1400 students experiences a loss of 100 students at the start of school in 2012 as compared to 2011, 2010 and 2009.
A state wants to dramatically increase the number of tourists that visited the state in the course of a year.
A school hot lunch program wants to increase the number of students that use their service.
In each situation a person or group of people could look for “what is wrong” and in doing so they might find a problem that they agree needs to be solved. They might find two of three problems to fix. The frame of looking for ‘what is wrong’ leads to people focusing in on problems. This focus can lead blame, control and changes that may or may not serve the common good. They may or may not fix the problem. And, a culture of “problem spotting” will be reinforced.
Conversely, a person or group of people can look at “what is” and ask themselves: “What is working currently?” and “What strengths can be built upon?” These probes can lead to big picture thinking and thinking about what the overarching goal is and what possibilities exist for reaching the goal. Obviously, a positive frame alone, without intentional action, will not lead to different outcomes. So, framing is a start that can lead to action in the direction of what is possible and desired. This focus can lead to a culture of sharing a big picture focus and an appreciation of actions that can move from the current situation to the preferred future.
The bottom line is: Where our thinking starts will effect where our thinking goes.