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1. The problem when solved will be simple.

Anonymous. Sign on the wall of the General Motors’ research laboratory at Dayton, Ohio. Quoted in Positioning: The Battle for your Mind (Al Ries and Jack Trout; 1981)


2. Settle one difficulty and you keep a hundred others away.

Anonymous. Chinese proverb.


3. If anything can go wrong, it will.

Anonymous. 1950s. Murphy’s Law.


4. Managers who are skilled communications may also be good at covering up real problems.

Chris Argyris (b.1923) U.S. academic and organizational behavior theorist. Harvard Business Review (1986)


5. Threat is dealt with by defensive reasoning…This in turn, produces learning systems in organizations that are actually against understanding how to deal with threatening issues so they can be eliminated.

Chris Argyris (b.1923) U.S. academic and organizational behavior theorist. Strategy, Change and Defensive Routines (1985), ch. 12


6. The problem of our age is the administration of wealth, so that the ties of brotherhood may still bind together the rich and poor in harmonious relationship.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) U.S. industrialist and philanthropist. The Gospel of Wealth (1889)


7. Crisis situations are usually unanticipated sudden developments, originating either within or outside the organization…if these could be managed within the framework of normal practice they would not be crises after all.

  1. K. Chakraborty ()b.1957 Indian academic. Management by Objectives: An Integrated Approach (1976)


8. It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.

  1. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) British novelist, poet and critic. The Scandal of Father Brown (1935)


9. You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.

Eldridge Cleaver (1935-98) U.S. civil rights activist. Speech, San Francisco (1968)


10. A gentleman can withstand hardships; it is only the small man who, when submitted to them, is swept off his feet.

Confucius (551-479 B.C.) Chinese philosopher, administrator and writer. Analects (500? B.C.)


11. It is characteristic of all deep human problems that they are not to be approached without some humor and some bewilderment.

Freeman Dyson (b.1923) U.S. physicist. Disturbing the Universe (1979)


12. We must bear in mind that the statistical relationships we work with, embodied in our econometric models, are only loose approximations of the underlying reality…Some fog always obstructs our vision, but when the structure of the economy is changing the fog is considerably denser than at other times.

Roger W. Ferguson, JR. (b.1951) U.S. economist, vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. On the problems facing the Federal Reserve Board in deciding policy. Speech, new Economy Forum, Haas School of Business University of California, Berkeley, California. “Conversation with Leaders of the ‘New Economy’” (May 9, 2000)


13. What is the answer to the question? The problem. How is the problem resolved? By displacing the question…We must think problematically rather than question and answer dialectically.

Michel Foucault (1926-84) French philosopher. “Theatrum Philosophicum,” Language, Counter-Memory, Practice (1977)


14. In solving our problems, we should beware of creating worse ones.

aIndira Gandhi (1917-84) Indian prime minister. Speech (February 10, 1969)


15. Yesterday’s success formula is often today’s obsolete dogma…We must continually challenge the past so that we can renew ourselves each day.

Sumantra Ghoshal (b.1946) Indian academic and management theorist. “Rebuilding Behavioral Context: A Blueprint for Corporate Renewal,” Sloan Management Review (co-written with Christopher A. Bartlett; Winter 1996)


16. All professional men are handicapped by not being allowed to ignore things which are useless.

Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, playwright, novelist and scientist. Maxims and Reflections (1819)


17. If you see a bandwagon, it’s too late.

James Goldsmith (1933-97) British entrepreneur, financier and politician. Quoted in The Risk Takers (Jeffrey Robinson; 1985)


18. In my experience the worst thing you can do to an important problem is to discuss it.

Simon Gray (b.1936) British playwright. Otherwise Engaged (1975), Act 2


19. If key aspects of the business shift around you, the very process of genetic selection that got you and your associates where you are might retard our ability to recognize the new trends. A sign of this might be that all of a sudden some people “don’t seem to get it,”…When they don’t get it or you don’t get it, it may be because of encroaching age; it may be because the “it” has changed around you.

Andrew S. Grove (b.1936) U.S. entrepreneur, author and chairman of the Intel Corporation. Referring to the signs of an approaching strategic inflection point. Only the Paranoid Survive: How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company and Career (1996), ch. 6


20. My argument is that companies are often blind, and that it is a genetic problem, making blinders a bigger challenge than mere inefficiency. Blindness can even affect an entire industry because most companies in an industry are blind in the same way.

Gary Hamel (b.1954) U.S. academic, business writer and consultant. Interview, Strategy + Business (October-December 1997)


21. I’ve spent 30 years going round factories. When you know something’s wrong, nine times out of ten it’s the management…people aren’t being led right. And bad leaders invariably blame the people.

John Harvey-Jones (b.1924) British management adviser, author and former chairman of ICI. Interview, Daily Telegraph (London) (March 24, 1990)


22. Problems can only be solved by the people who have them. You have to try and coax them and love them into seeing ways in which they can help themselves.

John Harvey-Jones (b.1924) British management adviser, author and former chairman of ICI. On his approach as a “Mr. Fix-It” for troubled businesses. Independent on Sunday (London) (March 11, 1990)


23. We live in an information economy. The problem is that information’s usually impossible to get, at least in the right place, at the right time.

Steve Jobs (b.1955) U.S. entrepreneur, cofounder and C.E.O. of Apple Computer Company, and C.E.O. of Pixar. Interview, “The Next Insanely Great Thing,” Wired Magazine (February 1996)


24. Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.

Henry J. Kaiser (1882-1967) U.S. industrialist. Quoted in obituary, New York Times (August 24, 1967)


25. Problems are the price of progress. Don’t bring me anything but trouble. Good news weakens me.

Charles Franklin Kettering (1876-1958) U.S. businessman and engineer. Quoted in Strategy + Business (1997)


26. The greatest risk lies is not knowing what you don’t know. In a fast changing marketplace such as the Internet, this trap seems to be so open and so wide.

William (Walid) Mougayar, U.S. consultant and management theorist. Referring to the challenge to managers of traditional industries of the new economy. Opening Digital Markets (1997), Introduction to 2nd edition


27. Difficulties, opposition, criticism-these things are meant to be overcome, and there is a special joy in facing them and coming out on top.

Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (1900-90) Indian diplomat. Quoted in The Envoy Extraordinary (Vera Britain; 1965)


28. We resort too often to the unhelpful practice of trying to solve a problem with larger doses of capital.

  1. Ross Perot (b.1930) U.S. entrepreneur, venture capitalist and politician. Speech to the Detroit Economic Club, Detroit, Michigan (January 1987)


29. Traditional business defaults to the familiar; it’s easy, comfortable and bonus-building to rely on old business models, outdated templates, yesterday’s strategies.

Faith Popcorn (b.1947) U.S. trend expert and founder of Brain Reserve. EVEolution (2000), ch. 1



30. Every solution of a problem raises new unsolved problems.

Karl Raimund Popper (1902-94) British philosopher of science. Conjectures and Refutations (1963)


31. Beware of the danger signals that flag problems: silence, secretiveness or sudden outburst.

Sylvia Porter (1913-91) U.S. journalist and finance expert. Attrib.


32. No business enterprise can succeed without sharing the burden of the problems of other enterprises.

Ayn Rand (1905-82) U.S. writer. Atlas Shrugged (1957), pt. 1, ch. 3


33. I need problems. A good problem makes me come alive.

Tiny Rowland (1917-98) British entrepreneur, co-C.E.O. and managing director of Lonrho. Sunday Times (London) (March 4, 1990)


34. “My door is always open-bring me your problems.” This is guaranteed to turn on every whiner, lackey and neurotic on the property.

Robert F. Six (1907-86) U.S. airline executive. Quoted in Money Talks (Robert W. Kent, ed.; 1986)


35. The problems of this world are only truly solved in two ways: by extinction or duplication.

Susan Sontag (b.1933) U.S. novelist and essayist. Etcetera (1978)


36. One must think until it hurts. One must worry a problem in one’s mind until it seems there cannot be another aspect of it that hasn’t been considered.

Roy Herbert Thomson (1894-1976) British media entrepreneur, founder and chairman of the Thomson Organisation. After I Was Sixty (1975)


37. The worst possible thing…was to lie dead in the water with any problem. Solve it, solve it quickly…If you solved it wrong, it would come back and slap you in the face, and then you could solve it right.

Thomas J. Watson, JR. (1914-93) U.S. C.E.O. of IBM. Quoted in “The Businessmen of the Century,” Fortune (November 22, 1999)