Principle of positivity provided the all important push

Good advise only will not produce the final result, one has to take action

Principle of Positivity in action

It is evening 7 O’ Clock. Rush time. Finishing the last task of the day you come out of the office of your senior academic friend whom you never fail to visit while in the College Street area, the centre of learning and books in your city from time immemorial.

As usual your backpack hangs heavy with a few chosen books and you don’t feel like walking the half a km walk to the nearest M G Road Metro station located on Chittaranjan Avenue crossing westwards. Looking around you select a slow moving bus and board it. As luck would have it, you get even a seat to flop down. It will be a few minutes only before you have to get down, but so what? Even a few minute’s rest matters, don’t I know!

In a bus, when you get a seat you always lose yourself in thinking. This is no exception. But you also have a good clock inside you that alerts you unerringly that quite a bit of time has passed without much movement forward. Opening your eyes wide you look around and look ahead searchingly. Oh, it’s a big traffic jam. An unending line of buses are standing still ahead on the road.

Just then you are surprised by a light tap on your right shoulder. Turning around you face a woman. She asks you in a low voice with barely suppressed anxiety, “Is there any other shorter route to Howrah Station?”

You sense an underlying problem of serious nature.

Problem definition

In any problem situation, the very first task is to understand the problem. This is the problem definition stage.

Quickly you assess your problem owner to be from a semi-urban locale and not so conversant with the ways of the great City of Joy. That is apparent. Then you start analyzing and evaluating her question further. Surely a second question is needed now to reveal the real concern. You have to know it as a problem solver.

Initial Problem analysis and information gathering

You reply, “No, there is none other. This road only leads straight to Howrah station. But what is your problem? Do you have to catch a train?” It is obvious to you - she wants to reach a station to catch a train.

Visibly shaken, she replies in a trembling voice, “Our train to Varanasi will leave at 8 pm. Can we catch it? We are together.” She points to the older woman beside as her companion.

Core problem

So there, this is the issue – presently sitting in a nearly stationery bus snagged in an evil-looking traffic jam they have to reach the station in just about 45 minutes.

Core problem Analysis & forming a Conjecture – the Initial final solution

You consider the problem. The options available need to be evaluated accurately and fast. Time is running out.

First option: carry on without taking any new action. Can the bus moving at this rate reach the station in time? Your assessment says – not possible.

The bus is apparently tying down its passengers to the stationery position on the road. Deductive reasoning says – they must get down from the bus to stand any chance of reaching the station in time.

Second option: What about walking, you think. Oh, it is not at all possible in the given time. Estimation again. Without judgmental assessment and estimation you can’t go a step forward in any significant problem situation.

So an alternative flexible transport that is not bound to a fixed route is required– again by deductive reasoning you conclude.

Third option: Free roaming yellow cab seems to be the only solution. But it is not easy to get a free and willing yellow cab in this situation. So you consider further.

Fourth option: What about call cabs? Lately international call cab service operators have introduced their space age service in this old city – you remember. In a normal situation you would call a call cab using your smart phone and within ten minutes a gleaming cab will stop in front of you with certainty.

But now? In this gloomy standstill jam-packed evening rush time? How can the call cab reach your problem owners? No, it is not possible.

Desperate, you go into the future.

Fifth option: If only air taxis were there!

Your option analysis and consequent formation of the initial final solution as "to find a yellow free roaming taxi" is complete. But for verification you start a quick consultation process.

Consultation

In a tight problem situation always go for consultation if possible. In case no one is available for consultation, you MUST use your own judgment.

In a serious real life consultation though, you must have an absolutely open mind while absorbing and analyzing the advises from the carefully chosen consultants. You must not be influenced by the opinions of others. Final judgment will be yours only because you are the person on whom the problem owner depends.

In numerous situations, when all of the advisors say “No”, decision analyst has to go for “Yes” to finally break the back of a tricky real life problem.

The bus conductor and the man sitting on your left turn out to be wise men fully knowledgeable about this problem domain. Both strongly suggest the women to take a taxi. It would take any free path towards the destination. It has flexibility of movement. It is not tied to a fixed stationery route. It can take narrow lanes and avoid the evils of the main road.

One of them even questions her, “Why didn’t you board a taxi in the very first place? Don’t you know a bus takes much longer?”

The other, apparently with a bit of hidden glee proclaims, “No way can you catch the train today.”

Well this is normal – you decide.

Final push of Principle of Positivity breaks your inertia

Other more capable problem solvers would perhaps have made the all-important decision earlier, you think with a bit of dejection. But again, you remember the old maxim,

It is never too late to act.

You get up from your seat and ask the women, “Do you have any baggage? Can you walk with it?” The younger of them, age fiftyish, replies promptly with renewed hope, “Yes, yes we can walk. We have a small suitcase only.” With a curt, “Follow me”, you get down from the bus, the other two following.

Goal now is to get a willing and free roaming taxi. How to do it is now the transformed problem!

Transformed problem

The actions to be taken now are nothing spectacular. You have to walk down the road towards Chittaranjan Avenue. Getting a free taxi is possible only from that junction ahead. Good that the direction is towards Howrah station only!

You walk steadily and fast occasionally checking back whether the two women are still there. The aged but hardy and strong-willed women follow you grimly, one carrying a small suitcase in her right hand.

It takes time to reach the junction covering quarter of a km.

Decision to take the right turn – the penultimate decision

Reaching the junction you decide to take the right turn on Chittaranjan Avenue, as according to your directional assessment, a taxi from the right would have more flexibility of route choice and shorter distance to destination to cover. The heavy traffic on Chittaranjan Avenue moved right to left on the eastern side. It is an important decision you classify.

Consciously you have applied a useful problem solving rule to take the decision.

At the centre of activities

Ignoring your age and tiredness, now you start running back and forth checking on every yellow cab that seems unoccupied. This is the final act. The problem has become your own now. They must catch the train - you have decided. And they still have a chance.

Two cabs refuse. You stick to the harrowing task. The third cab stops and the cabby mentions a sum double the usual. As you look behind to locate your problem owners for confirmation, they open the cab door in a rush and jump in. They have followed you very closely.

You extract a firm promise from the taxi driver to reach the destination in time. One of the ladies beckons through the window with great urgency, “Your phone number?” Apparently they wanted to convey the final outcome to you.

But you already have decided to take their number – you have to know the end result. To a problem solver positive end result is crucial. That is fair conclusion to a harrowing drama.

They promise to call you back as soon as they board the train.

At last you leave them to their minor fate.

Final result

At 10 minutes to 8 pm you call them instead. They have just boarded the train and are in the process of finding their seats.

Epilogue

Next day a man from Kolkata calls you. The ladies indeed are from a semi-urban background and totally unaware about how to move in a city like Kolkata let alone catch a train moving through the heavy evening traffic. They, together with a large group, have reached Varanasi safely for an once-in-a-lifetime sight-seeing trip.

When all else fail, the decision analyst has to own up the problem and see it through to the final desired solution.

A song in the head cries out to be sung.

Dynamic problem

It is a dynamic problem where the events (like the bus moving at a snail’s pace or the train starting for its destination at the right time) didn’t depend on the actions of the decision makers – the final results depended.

Gains

Your gain is the direct satisfaction in meeting a tough challenge plus the reflected satisfaction of not only two hapless women but also a group of people, you conclude.

Recommendation

All consultants should be responsible for measurable final desired result in some way or other.

A solution has no value till implemented.