Whose Problem is it?
AKA: Rescue me.
Description: Intentionally placing yourself in a weak (or clueless) position in order to induce the other side to make a concession, solve a problem, bring in new resources, or use his network. Often triggered by the line, “what are we going to do?” The next person to talk owns the issue. Warning to- SPITRs: This move is your kryptonite.
Intent: Acquire technology or know-how, evade responsibility, or obtain free consulting services. Can also build relationships.
Style: Looks Accommodative, and it can be. But can also be Avoiding and Competitive. If both sides are contributing to the solution, it is Collaborative.
Counters: If you want to work with this counter-party, then solve the problem or take the lead, but get paid for it. If you don’t – this is an excellent walk-away trigger.
“Whose Problem Is It?” It’s a simple technique for acquiring information and intellectual property in exchange for boosting someone’s ego – or wearing them down. Instead of proposing a solution or new approach, you admit that you are stuck and look to the other side to solve the problem.
When you do this, a couple of things happen. First, you’ve ceded control. He’s now calling the shots – at least on this particular issue. You might also find that you’re stuck with his solution. In addition, though, you are feeding his ego and validating his claims to leadership within your partnership. Finally, you may find that this is a good relationship-builder – if you don't mind him feeling he has the upper hand.
And, of course, you will also get the benefits of his technical solutions. Some form of “Whose Problem Is It?” is the basis for a big chunk of intellectual property transfers in China. Whiteboards and overhead projectors were the tools of IP theft as US techies, pumped up on the attention and the admission that “the Chinese side doesn’t understand the process”, conducted master classes with future competitors about their newest technology.
If someone hits you with “Whose Problem?” then your job is to make sure that, one way or another, you are getting paid for this AND ALL OF YOUR OTHER INTELLECTUAL CONTRIBUTIONS. Since you usually have to solve this kind of problem early, you have to make sure you agree to some structure (including discount or premium) for getting paid.
“Whose Problem Is it?” or “Rescue Me” is a great technique for turning your problem into “our challenge” .