Solutions = ProblemsHave you ever stopped to consider where your problems come from? Normally, we are too busy solving problems to even consider where they came from. But something or someone caused them. And while it would be convenient to blame someone else, most problems we cause ourselves because we were solving another problem.

At the start of the twentieth century, New York City – indeed, most large cities – had a pollution problem. They were drowning in horse excrement. Horses provided most of the locomotive drive for every day commerce and transportation. And horses poop. A lot. And cleaning it up was a full time job of the street sweeper as well as disposing of the “stuff.” In 1893,

“Crossing a street could be an unsavory affair. In New York City, by one estimate, horses left behind 2.5 million pounds of manure and sixty thousand gallons of urine every day.”

(From the book The Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways by Earl Swift)

The solution was the internal combustion engine and the automobile. No more horse poop. Problem solved.

But within thirty years of the introduction of the Model T, in 1933, the publication of the book “Stop That Smoke”, by Henry Obermeyer, a New York public utility official, announced the health dangers of smog – a term originally coined by Dr. Henry Antoine Des Voeux in his 1905 paper, “Fog and Smoke” for a meeting of the Public Health Congress.

Just a different form of the same “problem” caused by the “solution.”

So we can say that today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions.

But this also allows us to realize that

Tomorrow’s problems come from Today’s solutions.

This is why it’s important to stop and think before we react. Because the solution we are applying to our problem today will only create our problems of tomorrow.

And tomorrow does come – and when it comes it’s today.

Meredith just showed me a “problem” – a publishing house is issuing a new book on progressive Mormon issues – and the book cover is described as being approved by an organization that had really said it was the least objectionable of the choices – not a ringing endorsement or approval. Now the book is being panned by the very audience it was aimed at. The solution created the problem.

In the late 60’s the band Every Mother’s Son was a one hit wonder – and their first album cover didn’t help. It depicted the band members with their mothers in fur coats. The solution of the album cover created the problem of appearing to be elitist and snobs. They lasted a year.

So what solutions are you applying today – because they will cause tomorrow’s problems?

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.