Last week I had a conversation with a client about how one coaches employees to think bigger. Of course, I asked some questions first so I understood what he meant. Let me share the specifics. This client's company does software development. He said that often customers will call with a problem, and the tech support (or even the developers) go to work to solve the problem. The immediate problem gets solved, yet at some point down the road it recurs. His questions were: "How do I get my employees to see/understand that the problem is bigger than what it seems? How do I teach them to look at the situation in a broader sense, rather than simply fixing the problem the customer called about?"
There are two parts to handling this issue. Part One is to react and fix the problem. If you are in cardiac arrest you don't want the emergency room doctor to stand around thinking bigger. You want him to treat you and get your heart working properly, and then look at the bigger picture. The same is true in business.
Part Two is what doctors often do, but in business it's often ignored; i.e., asking questions as to the cause and long-term treatment: What caused the problem, is it likely to recur, have others experienced the same problem, is what I did to solve the problem a patch or a long-term solution? Doctors are trained to look beyond the symptoms.
In business the first step to coaching employees to think bigger is to help them understand that just because the problem goes away (the tech support issue is resolved) does not mean the underlying issue is resolved. Like doctors, business owners and employees must respond to the immediate issue at hand. Once that is handled, however, they need to step back and assess what caused the problem.
Want your employees to think bigger? Coach them to take a lesson from medicine.