Leaders need to become hunters who venture out in search of the problems that might lead to disaster for their firms; they cannot wait for the problems to come to them, according to Michael Roberts in his book Know What You Don’t Know: How Great Leaders Prevent Problems Before They Happen. Unfortunately most business schools teach students how to solve pre-defined problems rather than how to search out the problems in the first place.
According to the author, there are seven critical skills which must be mastered in order to someone to become an effective problem finder:
The book is based on almost 150 interviews with CEOs, business unit leaders and staff executives of small and large enterprises, relating to successes, failures and efforts to prevent failures from taking place. In my view there is nothing particularly surprising about the author’s findings or the seven critical skills which he has identified, but perhaps that is because it is fundamentally impossible to reduce the skill of finding previously unidentified problems to a science.