One can build your career, the other will make you CEO.
As you build your career, there are two basic mindsets you can optimize for; problem spotter or problem solver. Both can provide a ton of value to the organization. You need both in any growing organization. Both can also serve you well depending on what makes you wake up with a jump in your step first thing in the morning.
In larger organizations, roles get pretty narrowly defined. For many of you, this is perfect! “I want to come in and execute my assigned tasks”. Many of you in these roles tend to lean towards being more problem spotters. This is a vital role in organizations that are widespread with many different products or services. If the company is growing quickly, the need for problem spotters are even more urgent as process bog down.
Problem solvers are another breed altogether. I find myself in this category. I cannot look at a business without the idea that I can help it operate quicker/better/faster. Smaller companies have problems just like larger companies, the issue is that the consequences for those problems typically have a larger impact. People in these roles optimize for developing and answer or solution to the problem. “I need to fix that issue or our company may fail.”
Every company has it’s set of problems. Every company needs different people to operate. So, I imply no judgment as to whether it is better to be a problem spotter or a problem solver.
Startups and early-stage companies need more problem solvers than problem spotters.
In smaller companies, I believe that there are as many problems as larger companies but the net impact of these problems is typically more profound.
Want to build a career as a problem spotter – migrate towards larger, high-growth organizations and build some muscles around looking for cracks in the product or process.
Want to be a CEO someday – find your way to a startup or early-stage company and build muscles around solving critical, company-defining problems.
By Chris Heivly, Co-Founder, Mapquest, and Entrepreneur in Residence, Techstars