Problem Solvers Paradox: solving world’s problems doesn’t solve their own problems


A new breed of very high skilled and global competitive professionals started to appear and to grow as a quite distinct typology inside open innovation problem solving global platforms: the breed of problem solvers.

The Olympic level of one professional: a level measured in pure performance at the wildest level and pure innovation beyond theories, debates and academic papers!

Due to the internet magic and as a result of communication globalization, very good professionals coming from all over the world solve problems from all over the world and from all fields of activity and industries.

They are former corporate employees, freelancers, newly unemployed professionals, fresh graduates, students, former and present entrepreneurs, lecturers and academic professionals, researchers and even ordinary employees. Most of them are specialists, but there are also generalists.

Despite the diversity of differences, the common ground where their interests emerge is: problem solving.

Inside the most serious open innovation platforms, the best solutions to the common good and business problems launched are rewarded. The awards are both monetary and non-monetary, depending on the case and luck.

I met solvers who were awarded for problems launched by The Economist or NASA or other big global names, thing that changed their lives for the best and put an end to their struggle. This way they jumped to a completely new level of their existence.

At such level of performance (global / Olympic) it is normal to be this way.

I met solvers, like also myself, who were awarded for great problems but for organizations who chose anonymity due to market competitive reasons (like for example companies from pharma, medicine and healthcare industries) and their lives didn’t change at all even though their solutions hold a very high degree of fresh perspective and innovation and they are world changing.

At such level of performance (global / Olympic) it is not normal to be this way. But this is one of the many side effects of the open innovations game!

This problem solving game inside open innovation platforms has its own beauty and advantages (i.e. there is no discrimination). From many perspectives it is quite a ride!

From non-discrimination point of view, let me offer you my own example so you can better understand:  for the problem for which my solution had been awarded in cash, we were 2 solvers chosen as winners and as a result we split the award in two: between me, a young Romanian woman and a former entrepreneur and a middle age man who is an USA based financial institution’ vice president.

As you can see, we are at 100% opposite heads of the spectrum from all points of view. Isn’t that interesting?

However, there are also many minuses of this process, bigger and smaller. The one that I find the biggest by far is the exploitative nature of the process.

The intermediary platforms have no problem solvers oriented policies like promoting them, making lobby and advocacy for them among organizations especially because prizes are incredible low.

The final beneficiaries do not hire the solvers they award for the further implementation of their solution. They don’t even hire them part time or for online counseling / work (so low cost hiring). There are cases when this happens, but a majority does not hire their winning solvers.

Here is where also discrimination comes in: at the level of reality. If the organization is US based for example and the winning solver is Indian or Russian or European or whatever – no hiring is available. Maybe if the solver is a chemist, biologist or other kind of specialist, opportunities multiply. For think thanks, economists, generalists there are not such options available.

Beneficiaries prefer to just pay the winning solvers for the Intellectual Properties and that’s all. End of story!

From this perspective, many winning problem solvers’ lives do not change for the better, even though their solutions change the world and keep many organizations “safe” by this new opportunity of paying less for more and for better social and business solutions.

Some problem solvers keep solving problems because they want to have fun and they have a passion for intellectual challenges. Others solve for getting more recognition and automatically to earn more money. Others solve because they have no choice and need a lead for new money and for their surviving. Others solve as an act of philanthropy and /or individual way of practicing social entrepreneurship.

No matter the diversity of reasons and motivations, they all dedicate time, energy and knowledge to solving our world problems without discrimination and no matter how bad their struggles and lives are or how busy or demanding. They keep donating part of who they are and what they know to the world.

They do that just because they can; just because they hold the freedom, power, skills and potential to do it! They do it because they choose so instead of watching TV or spending significant part of their spare time in other ways.

Paradoxically, for many of those whose lives are serious struggle & surviving fields, solving world’s problems and being among world’s top professionals doesn’t solve also their own problems (like getting a better paid job, getting the funds for new business, managing to pay their debts, being attracted in superior educational programs or research activities, their performance being recognized as equivalent of a superior educational degree, and so on).

The surviving game became so rough ! Maybe it wouldn’t be such a problem if the scales of values weren’t so twisted!