An article in this week’s Harvard Business Review touts the importance of taking time to solve a problem. The authors contend that an in-depth analysis of a problem – and a greater amount of time spent in the “problem space” rather than the “solution space” – can encourage innovation and outside-the-box thinking.

They suggest that when people race to find a solution, they do not spend enough time considering underlying factors that may be contributing to the problem. The end result is that the problem does not truly get solved, merely delayed.

But is this theory one that could apply to the public service? “Innovation” has been a buzzword in the federal government for some time. Public servants are preoccupied with how better to innovate, how to do more with less, especially now that budgets and jobs are being cut.

Yet with double the workload, can public servants afford to take the extra time to mull over a problem?

Do you think having more time to mull over problems might yield better solutions in the long run? Have you experienced this kind of thing in your own department? Let us know in the comments.

Amy Allen
Amy Allen is a staff writer with Canadian Government Executive magazine. You can connect with her at