How being an explorer keeps your business from failing.

That’s a lie. There’s nothing that will keep failure away from business. As a matter of fact, failure needs to be a part of your business or you’re not growing. 

The truth: The one person business owner chooses a difficult journey. It’s the nature of trying something new, going out on your own, failing and adjusting. And guess what? Even if you’re one of many in an organization, your career is a one person business and your success is linked to trying something new, failing and adjusting too.

Every day you’re primary role is to find solutions to problems. The problems may be small, such as finding a room for the meeting that is now double in size, or as complex and large as finding a new line of business to stay relevant to your clients.

You may be experiencing a problem right now and failing at it spectacularly. I’ve been there too, it’s not fun. It actually can suck the life out of you. 

There’s no way to avoid failure completely. We need to fail in order to learn. I get that and so do you. But at the risk of sounding like a motivational poster, we do need to find a way to adjust and move forward.

Kick Failure in the Butt

I discovered A Kick in the Seat of the Pants by Roger von Oech through the creative process with my colleague at MY Designs. (Thanks M.Y.!)

Kick introduces four roles of the creative process: explorer, artist, judge, and warrior. In short, the Explorer searches out information; the Artist brainstorms ideas from that info; the Judge chooses a solution from those generated; and the Warrior implements the chosen solution taking the idea and making it a reality.

You can play all or one of these roles in your business. 

Be the Explorer in Two Steps

The primary role of the explorer is to search out information. But not just any information, but new information to help solve a specific problem.  And there in lies the first question:

Step 1. Define The Problem

What is the problem I’m trying to solve?

Failure can be a result of not solving the right problem. You can also waste a lot of time and money on the wrong thing, and time is not something any of us can afford to waste. 

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.”

Albert Einstein

Before you break out your explorer tools and take one step, get clear on the problem and make sure this is something worthy of investment. Here are a few probing questions to get you started:

  • What’s the underlying need that is not being met? 
  • What’s really not working?
  • Is this an isolated issue or a systemic issue?
  • What comes before and after this issue in my processes?
  • Do you really need to fix this?
  • What is the benefit of fixing this? 
  • What have we/you tried already?
  • Does fixing this problem align with our/my goals?

Step 2: Get Out and Explore!

Your clearly defined problem is a compass that helps set the direction. But now you need to take a step, but where? This is where many people jump to the solution. This is where it can be tempting to reach for that hammer (remember Abraham Maslow observed how tempting it is to treat everything as a nail of the only tool you have is a hammer.) Instead, use these questions and challenges to help explore the undiscovered ideas:

  • Where can I go to change my point of view? Is there a museum you can visit? How about a class unrelated to your profession?
  • What books, podcasts, or videos can I explore? Oftentimes ideas come from unexpected and unrelated activities.  What could hearing and reading others’ ideas do to open your mind and make connections to your problem?
  • How can you look at what’s right here in front of you differently? Look closer, farther away, with a different point of view? What if you asked someone not connected with the situation to give their observations?

Write out 10 or 20 ideas on how you can get out and explore, finding information – the raw resources – you’ll later turn into creative solutions to your problem.

Tips for Being an Explorer

Choose Curiosity Over Judgement 

You’ll be able to tap into your judge later, but for now do your best to be open to what’s in front of you as you go out into the world beyond your problem.

What does that mean? You’ll be asking more questions and looking for information to gather. Go through as many who, what, why, where, when, how questions you can with each exploration.

You won’t be assessing any information or choosing what is good or bad. Simply put the info in your bag and move on. (This is more difficult than you think, especially if you’re a pro at solving problems!)

Be Uncomfortable

This isn’t about confidence, it’s about patience. Believe me this is a very real challenge for most business professionals. We are continuously pushing ourselves to do more with less, do it faster, and do it all a once (multi-tasking). These will all put out the fire of innovation and creativity if you allow.

Creative ideas come from unexpected places. How often have you been driving down the road and suddenly thought of a solution to a problem or had a great idea for that next marketing program? 


I have two challenges for you this week: 

1. Clearly identify one problem you want to creatively solve.

2. Take one action each day for the next 7 days to explore information to help you solve this problem making sure to do so in both the usual and unusual places.