Influencers from Around the World – Where Do You Focus: Problems or Successes?

If you’ve followed Influence PEOPLE for any length of time then Hoh Kim should be
a familiar name to you because of his contributions to the Influencers from
Around the World series. Like me, Hoh is a Cialdini Method Certified Trainer (CMCT). In addition to that prestigious certification, Hoh also has his masters
in intercultural communication from Marquette University. You can learn more
about Hoh by checking out his website, The Lab h, and his blog, Cool
. I encourage you reach out to Hoh on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter
Brian, CMCT 
Helping You
Learn to Hear “Yes”.

Where Do You Focus: Problems or Successes?

In my last guest article I posed a question to
readers about what they would do in a particular situation. This time I’d like to do a follow up of sorts, only
in a slightly different context which I will elaborate on.
Many people make mistakes by highlighting negative social proof, rather than the positive ones. This is not only a phenomenon in surveys
but everywhere. I am sure you are very familiar with a general business term, “problem
solving.” Yes, we all want to solve problems and in order to solve “problems”
we should identify and analyze in depth what the problem really is because most
of us think we can solve problems once we know what the problem is.
Is that true? Not always. Maybe it is true for medical
doctors when treating patients’ diseases, and perhaps for engineers when fixing
a machine’s problem but what about problems in human beings and organizations?
Recently I attended the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) workshop
and heard a real story. Once, an organization had a “problem” – only 79% of
their customers were satisfied with their service. So the company did some
research to figure out what the problems were for the 21% of non-satisfied
customers. They found it and announced it to the organization. What happened?
Executives and employees started to blame others for the problems and the
satisfaction rate dropped even further!
The CEO was disappointed so he changed the strategy. He
conducted another study to figure out why 79% of their customers were satisfied. Yes, their success cases.
Next, the company tried to spread the cases within the organization. The result
this time? The satisfaction rate shot up to 95% within eight months!
Chip Heath, from Stanford, and Dan Heath, from the Aspen
Institute, wrote a great book called Switch.
One of the secrets to switch people’s behavior, according the brothers, is to
find ‘bright spots’ rather than focusing on problems. They wrote, “Don’t solve
problems. Copy successes.”
The Heaths quote the late Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) who was
a globally known psychotherapist who pioneered the Solution Focused BriefTherapy method. When Kim counseled her clients, she didn’t spend time asking
what their problems were or analyzing them. She simply focused on identifying
solutions. If a kid has the problem of not focusing at all during class she
would approach the child not to find out why she or he acted in that way, but
trying to find the conditions in which they pay attention to the teacher during
the class. Sometimes the child follows one specific teacher well, then, Insoo
Kim Berg would analyze why that was the case. On an interview, Kim Berg said,
“You don’t need to know what the problems are. You just have to know what the
solutions are.” It sounds like a joke but during my recent consulting work I
have applied these “bright spots” concepts and it has worked well. Here’s a
quote from the AI workshop, “If you focus on problems, you will create more
problems. If you focus on successes, then, you will create more successes.”
We work with different bosses, colleagues, staff members,
clients, consultants, etc., and see that some of them focus on bright spots, while
others focus on the “dark spots.” Each side has pros and cons but you will see most
people say things like this, “That’s the problem” or “This is the problem,”
without ever suggesting solutions. It’s true that criticizing problems is easy
and offering solutions can be difficult but I think the real problem are the “people
who always talk about problems only” and fail to offer solutions.
2 replies
  1. Anthony McLean
    Anthony McLean says:

    Hoh, this is indeed a bright spot in modern communciation and persuasion. Truly great article and I am glad that I can claim to be part of such a great network of human professionals. Thanks Brian as a fellow Influencer from Around the World I love these articles as much as your regular followers.

    Anthony McLean
    CMCT – Australia

  2. Brian Ahearn
    Brian Ahearn says:

    Thanks for commenting Anthony and for contributing regulalry. It's been a neat experience to meet you, Hoh, Sean, Marco, Cathrine and Yago. I hope we get to meet in person someday. Brian


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.