7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Problem Solvers


With apologies to Stephen Covey.

I had a problem with my Colnago EPQ road bike. I had taken it out on the road for several long rides and I was getting a strange clicking noise from the drivetrain. It was a problem that I needed to solve. And this was my approach.

1. Be Reactive

Problems are never a good thing. It is always best to think of the very worst possible outcome and go from there.

Why is my Italian super bike making such a racket? It must be those non-Italian wheelsets and their hubs. I should have bought those Campy Bora wheels when I got the bike. Boy, this is so frustrating! Maybe what I really need is a new bike.

2. Begin without an End in Mind

There is often no consideration given to the context around a problem. If there is a problem, it seems to overwhelm everything else that is happening in life. And it stands alone, in isolation. It is, in other words, the very worst thing possible ever to happen.

How can I possibly enjoy a ride with all of that clacking going on? And surely it must be doing some serious damage to the bike? There is no way that I can be a happy, productive cyclist with noise on, or in, the bike.

Rule #65 reads, in part: No squeaks, creaks, or chain noise allowed.

3. Put First Things Last

There can be a reluctance to seek out help for a problem in the early stages. Far better to be self-reliant and independent. If I cannot solve my own problems, why do I think someone else can? Never seek out qualified help first. Leave that to the last. And only if absolutely necessary.

It was obvious to me that I needed to replace my wheelset. This was not the first time that those wheels had made a maddening sound. It happened last season. And I had to replace a hub. Now, where can I find a set of Boras?

4. Think Lose-Lose

If problems are really bad, the solution to problems can often be much worse. First up, there may not be a solution. Or, if there is one, it is usually really, really expensive.

Conclusion: I cannot afford a new set of Campy Boras. The noise will never go away now.

5. Seek First to Complain, Then be Depressed

The only good thing about a problem is that you have something to complain about. Something other than the Canadian weather. And, if you complain about your problem long enough, it begins to affect your mood, not for the better.

I told everyone I knew about the problem I was having with my Colnago EPQ and my faulty wheels. Even my therapist. Whom I went to see because I was depressed. Depressed about the noise coming from those darned faulty wheels.

6. Brutalize

There is a school of thought that problems are best addressed by bringing in a different perspective or collaborating with others. That school of thought is clearly flawed. The only way to really deal with a problem is to crush it! With brute force.

The only thing that prevented me from tossing the bike into the ditch, as that relentless clicking sound kept repeating itself over and over, was the incredible handiwork of Ernesto”™s hand painted frame. Although I was so done with this problem, in a strange way I felt compelled to resolve it no matter what.

7. Sharpen the Saw

There is a tipping point somewhere with a problem. And that tipping point comes when you recognize that a) you are a complete imbecile and you cannot possibly solve the problem yourself even if you have made thousands of Google searches and b) you cannot ignore the problem any longer.

I took the Colnago in for service.

“Your rear wheel was put on crooked.”
“Hmmm, how did that happen?”
“I don”™t know. I didn”™t change your wheel.”

No. I did. When I started riding outdoors, I changed the quick release. And after I had put in the new quick release, I had locked the wheel so that it was crooked. I never noticed. The alignment of the chain was off slightly which caused a clicking sound.

Straightened the wheel and no more clicking.

The Colnago EPQ now supports the principle of silence. Life is good again.

I need to revisit my 7 habits of effective problem solving.

1 reply
  1. Michael
    Michael says:

    Funny. Reminds me of when I was having a problem with Wifi recently; it involved buying and returning multiple routers, hours of troubleshooting and a lot of frustration.

    In the end one of the macbooks had a faulty wifi card. A methodical vs reactive approach would have gotten to that conclusion with about 8-10 hours less energy expended.


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