The problem might be hard, but the solution can be easy. That’s a central insight of a solutions-focused approach. If we get too tangled up in thinking about the problem, analysing it and talking about it, we might miss the simplicity of doing something different – which may well be unrelated to the problem in any obvious way, yet improve things quickly. A nice example here, in this Guardian Weekend column by Oliver Burkeman.
At a recent conference, SF practitioner Chris Iveson reminded us that SF is neither a science nor an art, but a craft.
One of the most important ideas in Solutions Focus is that the problem is not necessarily related to the solution. And this notion seems odd to many people. They wonder how can you get to a solution if you don't start with a problem.
A first step may be to imagine various issues where there is no problem.
The fashion for competencies in organisations has been overtaken by an enthusiasm for strengths. This is thanks to the impact of positive psychologists. But what are their respective uses for organisations? Is it competencies for recruitment, then strengths for development?
Can we use both? Or may we be better off - from an SF perspective - with neither?
There’s a direct connection between resilience and other qualities that we recognise as positive and desirable in people. Courage, for example, is displayed when people feel strong. And that strength is the same as the feeling of resilience to the pressures that surround you.
The connection between them is that you should maintain yourself in good condition against the everyday stresses, so that you have plenty in reserve for those heightened, high-stake moments of pressure.
If elderly people are moved into sheltered accommodation or care homes, they suddenly face many problems, often including a sense of dislocation. It would be easy to discuss or investigate how bad this problem is, exactly what troubling effects it leads to, and other problem-focused lines of inquiry. Another option would be to do something worthwhile to give the new residents more of the feeing they want - of something familiar.
Positive Psychology (PP) and Solutions Focus (SF) are different enterprises. Their practitioners are aiming at different targets. The nature of PP is academic, the pursuit of understanding; SF is about the pragmatic application of a set of principles and tools, perhaps best described as finding the direct route to what works.
That may highlight a difference in disciplines, yet there is a great vista of common ground – particularly when you look at practitioners who label themselves as within the PP and SF camps. Many of each are professional coaches, which makes it possible to compare and contrast the approaches within that specific field. We can observe how each group is taught and how each practises, for example.