What Problem Will You Own?



On the days I’m smashed up against an assortment of characters on the New York City subway, I sometimes play a game.

I imagine someone yelling, “What’s your problem?!” It’s a question I’ve heard in this situation plenty of times before but instead of causing a kerfuffle, I picture a different reaction: An elderly gentleman across the aisle uses his cane to stand up and proudly declares, “I’ve dedicated my life to addressing poverty.” A young woman raises her hand, clears her throat, and announces, “I care about gender inequality.” A teenager pulls out his ear buds and says, “My problem is racial profiling.” Soon, everyone around me has announced a problem that they are personally dedicated to.

The world would look drastically different if we spent more time identifying a problem to own, rather than fighting for more space, more time, or more money in our own little part of the world.

At Echoing Green, a nonprofit organization that supports young people to dedicate their lives to improving the world, we’ve learned that if you want to make a difference, you need to own a problem. You must make it yours to solve.

There are three steps to doing this­...

Continue reading on Harvard Business Review Blog, and tell us what problem you are driven to tackle.

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Photo by Eric.Parker