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  • Writer's pictureRobert Stevenson

The Second Right Answer


Robert Stevenson Blog - The important thing is to keep questioning. - Albert Einstein

I once read that our educational system tends to teach students to solve problems based on a recipe that leads to a single, correct solution. But, the real world of business isn’t like that; there is more than one right answer.

In criminal law, a mitigating factor, also known as extenuating circumstances, is any information or evidence presented to the court regarding the defendant or the circumstances of the crime that might result in reduced charges or a lesser sentence. In business, the marketplace is riddled with landmines (mitigating factors or extenuating circumstances) which make every business plan, procedure, rule and regulation, subject to change. Every day you think you have it figured out something changes. You don’t think so. Blackberry had a 50% world-wide market share in 2007, when the Apple iPhone was introduced. In just two years, their market share dropped to 20%, and today it is basically zero.


BlackBerry's smartphone business was killed due to its inability to meet the needs of changing consumer desires.


The worlds of technology, artificial intelligence, and instant communication through social media put all companies’ strategic plans at risk. The big question that should always drive you is – Is there a better way? As Einstein said: “The important thing is to keep questioning.” When you first address a problem, issue or innovation dilemma, there always seems to be a multitude of different suggestions and ideas for solutions … but then we come up with an answer and discard all the other ideas. American businessman and author, Robert Kiyosaki, who is known for his best-selling book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, once stated, “There is nothing more dangerous than a person with only one right answer.”


In the situation I stated above about deciding on the “ONE” right answer and disregarding everything else, may I suggest you look for the “SECOND” right answer. Hypothetically, change your available resources and try and figure out a totally NEW way to accomplish the same thing. By doing so, you might find an even better way, or take some of the things you came up with in the “second right answer” that will help your “first right answer.” What if I told you to build 6 horse stalls? How many walls are required to build the stalls? A simple sketch would show that 13 walls are required (plus 6 doors).


A map of a layout for horse stalls.

But what if you don’t have the money to pay for the lumber to build 13 walls. Could there be another way to configure the walls, so you could reduce the amount of lumber required? Sure, there is. We all know that Necessity is the Mother of Invention.



A different version of a 6 stall map.

This configuration requires only 8 walls and the same number of doors. It may not look like a conventional barn, but it works. The key is to be open-minded. Open-minded people don’t care to be right; they want to understand. It’s not about the right or wrong answer … everything is about UNDERSTANDING the situation.


In looking for the second right answer, we need to remove these phrases from all meetings:


  • “We’ve never done it that way before.”

  • “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

  • “That just looks weird.”

  • “It’s never been done.”

  • “That’s silly.”

  • “We can’t do that.”


Success comes to those who are willing to look at things from a different perspective; not accepting the norm. Steven Jobs revolutionized the music industry with the iPod because he wanted an easier way to access music. The moment you limit your possibilities is the moment you begin to fail.


Until You Change Your Way Of Thinking,You’re Just Recycling Past Experiences;

Keep Looking For TheSecond Right Answer.

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