If you have a problem to solve, look out for bright spots!

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Quickly; if your child comes home with the following report card, how would you react to it?

English - C

Mother tongue – C

Math – F

Science – D

Physical Education – A

Music - A

Art – A

For many parents in Singapore, this is the surest ticket to more tuition! “There must be something wrong with my child if he is failing math and science!” Notice that nothing much is said about how well the child does in PE, music and art. After all, this is Singapore; and what good is there for a singing and dancing artist! We want bankers, lawyers, engineers and doctors!

Yet, this is precisely the WRONG thing to do. By focusing on our weaknesses and pouring all our resources in solving the “problems”, we are making them mediocre at best. The F’s & D’s may move up to D’s and C’s, but the A’s and B’s might slip! Now all our subjects are in the C’s and D’s range and we languish. Wouldn’t if be better if we had a couple of A’s in the mix?

Instead of focusing on the D’s and F’s, and trying to correct them, what we could do is to look at the A’s and B’s and investigate what makes them so good. Find out why your child is excelling in them and see if there is a way to replicate that for other subjects. Perhaps your child needs to be physically stimulated, and sitting down at table for 3 to 4 hours will not do? Maybe your child needs colour and rhythm, and subjecting her to monotonic linear babble might turn her off? By understanding what turns her mind on, and what keeps her interested, we can then use that to help her excel in all the other subjects she is doing poorly.

These things that turn her learning on are called bright spots and every situation has them! If you are facing a huge task to improve performance, look out for areas where there seems to be success stories and study them. Identify why they are striving in the face of larger negative performances. Perhaps the people involved in them have added something different? Maybe they have created a new sales kit all by themselves? Maybe they have found out a way to handle all the bugbears that seem to impede the use of your product?

If you are starting a change management effort to increase performance in your company, you may not need to look far. Just look at the people who are already performing well in the sea of poor performance and zero in on what makes them different. Once you have identified the “secret sauce”, replicate it throughout your organisation.

But what if there is no such bright spot in your organisation? Then look outside. See what other people in other businesses are doing and study their methods. Then melt it down into the fundamentals for your own business and replicate that.

Bright spots – these are the areas where you can find quick wins. These have already been field-tested for your implementation. It sure beats trying to find the solutions from scratch.

So the next time you have a problem, don’t try to fix what’s not working; instead, look at what’s working and replicate that.

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