Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Biashara coach: 9 problem solving skills learned from a widow

By Virginia Mburu

In the article, Biasharacoach: 40  probelm solving questions to ask”, Mwakazi the Passionate Entrepreneur and owner of Makao Interiors Ltd picked a number of lessons on problem solving.

Recently, he had some issues to deal with and  he had the  advantage of having picked and executed more lessons from the story of a widow found in 2 Kings 4: 1-7.  Below are the 9 lessons he learned from the widow;

1. Do you understand the problem faced?

Verse 1.... “The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves."

They say that trouble arrives in doubles. And so it was for this widow. While still grieving the death of her husband, she got another blow in the form of a creditor.  “You pay up for the debt your husband incurred or we take your two boys as slaves”, thundered the creditor. 

What is your problem? Do you understand the genesis of the problem? What is the “unpaid debt” in your situation? What about the consequences? What are you likely to lose? 

2. Who can assist you solve the problem?

Make it a person who is able to assist you. It could be a mentor, a coach etc.  Someone who is experienced enough to understand the situation, is available and willing to help. 

You will notice that the husband belonged to a company of prophets and Elisha was a well-known prophet at the time and was renowned for performing miracles. 

You will also note from the next verse that this prophet is a good problem solver. He does not lose time and immediately delves into solution seeking mode!

3. Are you ready to answer a few questions?

Verse 2 “Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house? 

The person/s to assist you will want to establish and clarify some details or facts. What is your goal? What end result do you want? Are you ready to think through and come up with useful answers?

4. Are you ready to be part of the solution?

Verse 2 continued “...."Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil."

Are you willing to contribute to the problem solving process?  You must have several proposals on how the solution can be reached...after all it is your problem, not the mentor, coach, expert, friend etc.  You may think that you have nothing of value but there is always “a little oil” that would form the foundation to your solution. So, what is your ‘little oil’?

5. Are you willing to   listen and take advice?

Verse 3 & 4 “Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."

What about taking some notes to ensure that you do not forget? What about asking for clarifications when you do not quite ‘get it’?

6. Are you ready to soil your hands?

 Verse 5-6  She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.”

As soon as the problem solving process is clear, immediately get ready for the hard or is it smart work?  You may have to get a buy in from the various stakeholders (sons) who will share various responsibilities.

You may have to knock so many doors and possibly face several rejections as you collect the  what looks like not useful stuff like the ‘empty jars’ etc. Never mind that these jars need some cleaning up before use!

You will notice that the stakeholders come in as supporting actors. You are the main actor- the one pouring the oil and setting the full jars aside. The one to know when to stop working the process.....

7. Do you have a formidable network?

Have you build good relationships with your community of employees, customers, suppliers, media, government bodies, NGOs, relatives, friends, neighbors etc.? You cannot afford to be a lone ranger as you may need help of the whole community to provide you with the raw material (empty jars) / skills to sort your problem with. 

What about keeping their contacts up-to-date and easily retrievable such that when a need arises, you can ‘go around’ them fast?

8. Are you good at providing feedback?

 Verse 7... “She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts.”

This particular instruction had not been provided at the start of the process but the widow knew the importance of providing feedback or could she have been too excited to share the miracles happening behind the closed door? 

Either way, relevant feedback to those assisting you is crucial. You may even get excellent tips on the next action plan! Like where/who to sell the extra oil perhaps?

9. Can you spot the hidden opportunities the problem presents?

Verse 7 continued “You and your sons can live on what is left."

The widow initially went to the prophet to be assisted pay off her debt but she got double blessing- oil enough to sell and pay the creditor as well as extra to live on! 

Could you possibly have come up with such a revolutionary way to solve the problem such that you can patent the same to others? Could you possibly sell the solution? The problem could be an opportunity in disguise- Can you spot that opportunity?

Over to you Passionate Entrepreneur,

  • What other lessons can we learn from the widow?
  • What opportunities have you spotted from the problems you have faced?

Share your experiences, suggestions or questions in the comments section below. Who knows- You could probably be the customer who will benefit from the “spotted opportunity”! 

Whatever you do, make sure it results in less work, more money and positive impact.


Virginia Mburu

Passionate Entrepreneurs Coach

Virginia empowers and motivates Passionate Entrepreneurs to realize their purpose and pursue it. She then assists the entrepreneurs to clarify, prioritise and focus on management and marketing strategies and action plans that will get them to work less, make more money and positively impact within one year. Access some of her gifts- absolutely free lessons

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