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A Lesson From Our Students

Are you willing to put your “idea” on pause?

Right now, many Big Idea Project students are in the process of figuring out what social issue they want to tackle and how they’re going to tackle it. But nearly every student is running up against the same issue: they jump into brainstorming a solution before really investigating the issue and looking at it through the perspective of the people affected by the issue.

I’ve spent the last few weeks asking students the same questions over and over again: What problem are you solving? How do you know that your idea will help solve this issue?

Students struggle to answer these questions because they are already attached to their ideas and they don’t want these questions to change the trajectory of their work. It’s almost comical to me as an outsider looking in, but how often do we adults struggle with this same issue?

Whatever our domain of influence — whether in business, in the community, or at home – we often default to generating solutions to problems before really “sitting in” the problem and taking the time to ask for the perspectives of those affected by the issue.

Why is this problematic? Our students are learning that solutions generated pre-maturely don’t actually help people, and they can actually harm the people you’re trying to help.

Are you wanting to solve an issue in your workplace? Are you trying to affect change in your community? Are you wanting to help a friend in need?

If so, that’s great! Please invest your time in helping others and solving issues! Just don’t neglect to pause and ask for the perspectives of those struggling with the issue.

“How does it feel to experience [insert issue]?”
“As you’re experiencing [insert issue], what is one thing you wish could be different?”
“What can I do to help alleviate this issue for you?”

These questions may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised by the insight you receive from people when you take time to ask these questions. You may find that the responses you receive confirm your idea, or maybe they flip your idea on its head and lead you in a completely different (and more effective) path.

Are you willing to put your idea on “pause” for a moment to seek out someone else’s perspective?

Written by Krystal Kniegge, Program Partnership Coordinator