How significant is the difference between a person who has the ability to memorize things easily and a person who has developed the ability to problem-solve at a high level? Which one would you consider more intelligent? Which one would you rather have perform surgery on you, or be your pilot the next time you fly on a commercial airliner? I’ll choose the problem-solver, but there’s more to it.
First let’s talk about learning, and how it relates to everything you do as an entrepreneur and leader. There are endless places where we could start, but let’s begin by talking about what’s involved when someone sets out to learn how to fly a jet. Flying a jet involves a lot of deep, intense learning over a long period of time. On the surface, it would appear to that flying is a highly technical and procedure-driven activity. True, it is. But, critical problem-solving ability comes into the picture the moment something doesn’t go as planned—no different from what happens in businesses every day.
So, getting back to the question posed above about the difference between rote memorization and the ability to problem-solve, it’s clear that both are critical. In order to problem-solve well, you must have a solid foundation of knowledge on which to base your decisions. Pilots do this by first memorizing all the procedures and systems on an aircraft. Business owners, managers, organizational leaders do the same by knowing everything there is to know about their industry. With information that is immediately available in today’s world, there’s no excuse not to be an expert in whatever you do. If all else fails, begin with a Google search! Build your basic and advanced knowledge. Then, be able to articulate what you’re all about. Imagine that next week you’ll speak to a class of MBA students and explain how and why you do what you do.
The simple act of articulating what you’re all about can work wonders. When I was a pilot flying jets, it wasn’t until I became an instructor and had to articulate to a student what was involved in performing the perfect loop at 600 knots and six Gs that I really learned my craft. The same is true in business. It’s one thing to build a profitable business, it’s quite another to be able to tell others how you did it.
So, pretend that you will be the one talking to that MBA class next week or next month. You’ll be amazed at what a difference it will make.