How to solve problems at work, says Deloitte exec: ‘My best idea didn’t come when I was sitting tied to a desk’

How to solve problems at work, says Deloitte exec: ‘My best idea didn’t come when I was sitting tied to a desk’
  • PublishedSeptember 29, 2023


Deborah Golden has a pretty unique job: As consulting firm Deloitte’s chief innovation officer, she gets to “solve really hard problems,” she says. Often this can mean leaning into emerging technologies to evolve offerings and products for clients.

“I’m very good at seeing A to Z,” she says.

While Golden’s job calls for solving big problems on an organizational level, every worker comes across snags in their day-to-day, even if they only have to deal with their specific duties. And with so much going on, it can be easy to get stuck on how to solve those problems.

If you can’t figure out how to trim a growing bottom line, how to train your employees in the best way, how to write the next slide in your presentation — and so on, here are a few ways to clear your head and hit refresh on your brain to come up with some solutions.

‘It’s beautiful outside, you want to go for a walk?’

‘You have 30 seconds, go grab something’

If you’re a manager and are about to have a meeting with your reports, one good way to help clear their minds is to start the meeting with an exercise.

“I always do an icebreaker at every start of every meeting,” says Golden, adding that, “an easy one is, ‘you have 30 seconds, go grab something, no matter where you are, and you have to come back and in less than 30 seconds, you have to tell us why you grabbed it.'”

This also helps people disconnect and get some blood flowing in their brains and bodies, and puts “an ease to solving some of the challenges that you’re solving in that 30 minutes,” she says.

Hit refresh in ‘one minute, five minute and 15-minute increments’

“We tend to say we’re going to refresh our brain when we take a vacation or at the weekend,” says Golden. But you can give your brain refreshers throughout the day.

“What I encourage everyone to very simply do,” she says, is “write down on a piece of paper what are the ways that you can refresh your brain in one minute, five minute and 15-minute increments.” Call someone you love and tell them you love them. Do a crossword puzzle. Go for a jog. Do jumping jacks in the room — whatever is going to get you to disconnect for that period of time and come back to your task anew.

“My best idea didn’t come when I was sitting tied to a desk,” she says. “It came when I was outside, when I was in the shower, when I was on a plane, when I was listening to music, when I was running … That’s when the ideas come.”

Create those opportunities for yourself even during the workday and see what you can accomplish.

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