Are You A Solutionist?
6 Ways To Find Your Solutions Groove
After decades of having the ‘Co-founder’ job title here at Futerra, for our new mission I’ve taken on an additional title of ‘Chief Solutionist’.
But, what does being a ‘solutionist’ actully mean?
You might be imagining someone who is part inventor, part problem solver, part enthusiastic optimist. Maybe a little science; plenty of art. You’d be right – but above all, being a solutionist is a mindset.
I’m often asked about my job title, and there’s a lot to say. So to start things off, here are six signs that you’re thinking like a solutionist – and how to embrace them.
1. CHANGE YOUR MIND
Being a solutionist requires an ‘adaptive mind’. An adaptive mind welcomes change, sees challenges as opportunities, and is excited by new perspectives. You’ll obsess over your goals, while being experimental about how you reach them.
By its very nature, doing something new and different – something better for people and planet – is difficult. It involves trial and error, successes and failures, pivoting and learning. The road has twists and turns. An adaptive mind straps in for the ride, instead of taking the safer route.
2. DO, DON’T TELL
Entrepreneurialism is at the heart of the solutions agenda – it’s where innovation, creativity and practicality thrive. And we know that business has the power to change the world: its vast control over land, water, carbon and waste means that it can move the needle quickly. But that very control has, historically, earned businesses plenty of distrust, particularly among Gen Z.
The answer is not for businesses to persuade their way back into people’s good books (spoiler: that won’t work anyway). Instead, a solutionist finds, well, a solution. They grasp the huge opportunities that a low carbon future presents, and present the answer to people. This is why people are twice as interested in the social and environmental impacts of a product as they are in those of a brand. Solutionists make better happen: they stop Trump in his tracks, decarbonise the world’s biggest motorsport, or cook up planet-friendly cat food.
3. PASS THE MIC
We need to change everything, and that takes everyone. Women and people of colour are still woefully under-represented and excluded from in leadership positions. But research shows that diverse leadership strengthens innovation – just the thing the world so urgently needs.
That’s why we created our Everyday Climate Heroes exhibition. People of different ages, faiths, ethnicities and abilities all shared their climate story, and their faces were plastered across displays in Glasgow, London and the press. The very well represented cis, white, male, able-bodied leaders must pass the mic to solutionists of colour, to women, to marginalised communities and particularly to indigenous protectors. There’s a wealth of knowledge and experience out there that can help fix the future. Let’s put different people in the spotlight.
4. STAY HUMBLE AND PROUD
Recycling a plastic bottle can simultaneously feel hopelessly futile (there are so many more bottles, what difference does this make?) and the most blindingly necessary and important choice (if everyone did this, we’d save the oceans!). The same can often feel true of any work to solve climate change. Putting a dent in the problem can make you feel incredibly powerful; but the size of the problem you’re denting can leave you feeling utterly powerless.
Kenyan environmentalist Ben Morison likely didn’t feel like he was changing the world when he first picked up a discarded flip flop from a littered beach. But 30,000 flip flops and a boat built out of them later, he might feel proud of the progress ‘The Flipflopi’ has made in tackling plastic pollution – while knowing that there’s a lot further to go. Learn to zoom in and zoom out, to hold both perspectives as true. Focus in on the dent you’re making, and step back when it serves you to see the big picture. You are neither garbage nor god – just a person making a difference.
5. REST, RECOVER, RECHARGE
Burnout is a thing. Thinking about the world’s biggest problems, and doing your darnedest to chip away at them, can weigh heavily. Just as activists are vulnerable to the emotional toll of trying to make change, so too can any solutionist feel the burden of the problem they’re trying to solve.
Be sure to do the basics: sleep, eat, rest. But don’t forget the less obvious, but equally necessary, ways to keep your spirits bright: laugh and hug, run and dance. These are all world-changing behaviours because they keep solutionists going.
6. ENJOY IT
Solutionists’ biggest secret is that they are happy. Which comes as no surprise, when you think about it – solving problems feels good. Research has shown that when people learn about a problem, they feel 23% less negative about it if they also learn about the problem’s solution. The same study found that when people felt part of the solution, they became 20% better problem solvers themselves – how’s that for a virtuous circle!
Globally, 85% of people are unhappy in their jobs. And the UK’s biggest study of workplace happiness shows that a sense of purpose is one of the key drivers of happiness at work. Solutionists get to chase their purpose every day, and work with others who are doing the same. Even when the clouds gather, our purpose is the sunshine waiting for us behind them.
It’s not always easy to stay solutions-minded in a world full of problems, but that is exactly why we must. (Plus, it’s really, really good fun). The world urgently needs more solutionists – and with the right mindset, anyone can join us.