What Tanya Chapman Taught Me About Solving Big Problems

Tanya Chapman, CEO of The Chapman Group, was recently a guest on the podcast and what has stayed with me since that morning is Tanya’s uncanny ability as a problem-solver.

My brain immediately goes to the macro; the big messy problems that the world is attempting to navigate in the face of 21st century-change. In situations that require my full-attention in the here & now, my mind hops the next train out of the city in pursuit of something BIG.

What Tanya taught me at the outset was that this is a fantastic opportunity to learn to delegate; put people around you that are all-stars in the ‘what do i do next?,’ department so you can continue working on leading with vision. The world needs both of these types of leaders.; the kind that paint the vision for what could be, and the kind that center the team and incite action.

It crystallized and became clear to me at recent city council debates. Pot holes, the water quality lower West and the double tax are very real problems but my brain can’t help but rank them far below the plight of young girls in Afghanistan, the failure of the Iran Nuclear deal or the alienation of immigrants in America.

Tanya had a solution: think globally but act locally.

It’s deception is that it’s brilliant and simple. We so often want to get fancy but when you get fancy, fancy get’s broken.

Thinking globally but acting locally allows you to do something. To not wallow in the despair that is major global problems but to actually go out into the world and make change.

A local conversation around pot holes and the quality of our roads leads to discussion around human movement; how does the infrastructure we create influence how we work, play and live? As Jeremy Rifkin sees it, mobility is one of the 3 pillars that has the ability to change everything. It makes me think city planning is an unbelievably important aspect of urban life. Just ask New York City in the face of Robert Moses.

A local conversation around the water quality Lower West leads to a deeper debate around how we serve communities and how we hear their voice. Are the people most affected heard in the political arena? Are decisions made with them or without them? We were talking about the Lower West side of a small Maritime town, now we’re talking about community organization and political representation.

A local conversation around the double tax leads to coffee shop conversation around the future of population growth and prosperity in the region. Is investment attraction going to be an uphill battle? Will the urbanization we’ve fought for ever come to fruition if it’s cheaper to live 15 minutes outside the city in our rather lovely bedroom communities?

In the end, I will always believe if we want to move forward there must be a global hierarchy of problems.

But what I now understand is that I’m not recognizing the power of influencing change here at home. Perhaps thinking, debating and acting locally truly does change the outcome.

Today, go out into the community and think globally, but act locally.