I take it either as an indicator of great insight or advancing imbecility that I no longer think of what I do as “writing” and instead think of it as “providing blank-page solutions”. I came to this conclusion after reading the advertisements in just one issue of a popular business magazine and discovering 35 of the issue’s full-page ads use the word “solutions” at least once. One used it five times in the same ad. Another used it in three different ads. Businesses have all sorts of stripes, but all seem to be selling the same thing: Solutions. But what a variety of solutions they sell!
SAS Institute sells “integrated financial management solutions”. Brio Technology sells “business intelligence solutions”. Lucent, no slacker, sells “solutions at all levels”. NTT Mobile Communications discretely offers “private solutions”. CDW is into “computing solutions”, while AppNet trumpets a “single-source solution”. Count on IBM for “technology-based solutions” and know that Big Blue promises: “The solution you want is the solution you get”, which is, after all, the only kind of solution worth talking about.
Compaq has “a better business solution”. Theirs is the “solution that’s all business”. GTE promises innovative solutions” which are probably hard to differentiate from Comdial’s “communications solutions”, and “reliable communications solutions”. If those fail, Hewlett Packard has “back-up solutions” which are no relation to (again) Compaq’s “docking solutions”.
Sybase’s “reliable data movement solutions” are not to be confused with Digex’s “hosting solutions”, which undoubtedly rely on Intel’s “long-term solution” for your “e-business solution”, which is, in fact, a “new solution”, because no one wants to be stuck using old solutions.
Of course, everyone knows there are stand-alone solutions, but you may not know Motorola has “embedded solutions”, not necessarily synonymous with Usinternetworking’s “end-to-end solution”.
StorageTek naturally has a “storage area network solution” that pales in comparison with Texas Instruments’ “optimal solution”, which is really a “microprocessor-based solution”.
Now when I think of “solutions”, I ask myself, “Why do we need solutions?” and I answer, though not aloud, “Because we must have problems”. If you then theorise every solution addresses a problem, but also there are undoubtedly more problems than there are solutions, I think we can fairly conclude the 35 “solutions” ads point to at least 35 problems – and probably many more.
Further, it seems obvious the number of top-performing companies selling solutions means the real foundation for our vibrant economy is problems, because you certainly wouldn’t need non-problem-based solutions any more than you would need corrective lenses if your vision were 20-20.
Our problem-based economy extends far beyond the technological problems technological solutions were invented to solve. For instance, I notice the United States Postal Service now offers “shipping solutions”, which an unsophisticated person might confuse with “mail”.
I noticed, too, when my neighbours moved out (as all inevitably do), the moving company van said that the company specialised in “moving solutions”. Naturally, moving solutions were devised to address the old problem of immobility. Based on my observations, these solutions include a large truck, large men, and lots of boxes.
Now solutions have gone one linguistic step further. I heard someone the other day say he was “solutioning” something. My solution for him is duct tape, applied firmly over the mouth.
And so, there you have it: My deadline solution.
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