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MAIL OPINION  By Shana Kongmun


Looking at old problems in a new light

I was thinking of writing an editorial on the usual New Year’s topics; starting the new year fresh by being considerate of others, caring yadda yadda. But instead of the usual peace and goodwill towards mankind theme let’s start the New Year by thinking creatively, by stepping outside our comfort zones and approaching problems and their solutions in more unusual ways.

I recently had the good fortune to be invited to a brain stretching seminar; how to push ones self to think creatively and open up new possibilities. Now, I am usually quite skeptical of anything that resembles motivational speaking, team building exercises etc., being a rather cynical person in regards to people’s abilities to seriously change. However, the speaker is a good friend whose opinion I respect so I gave it a shot. It wasn’t mind-blowing or even life changing, but it was interesting and gave me some directions to take my own thinking when I wasn’t feeling particularly creative.

The notion of changing one’s perspective and learning to tackle problems from a different angle came home to me when I was searching for the peanut butter in my kitchen cupboard and I just couldn’t see it. So I figured it was up on the second shelf out of reach. I grabbed the step stool and by simply changing my perspective and looking down from a height I saw it was actually on the first shelf but in a way that escaped my attention. I said to my friend, “Sometimes all you have to do is change your point of observation to get a different perspective.”

So, in that light, how can we look at the problems that face Chiang Mai from a totally different point of view and perhaps come up with a different perspective and maybe even some workable ideas for solutions?

Some are totally achievable but seem insurmountable such as solving the traffic issue with mass transit, police enforcement and driver education. Much of this depends on prioritizing the issues that face Chiang Mai, picking those that are urgent and those that are doable. Prioritizing issues is always a problem when trying to fix problems. What is hugely important for some is not so important for others. The most difficult part of this problem solving is to find the political will to institute solutions that may not be popular or expedient but necessary, more so than finding the money or the tools. A perfect example was the very smart idea of the police to close the road to Doi Suthep over the New Year and requiring visitors to park at the new convention center and take a songthaew, thus alleviating the massive traffic jams that plague Huay Kaew and Canal road every year. This was a really good idea in nearly everyone’s perspective but not those of the vendors who lost income because the songthaews did not park where they had their stalls and so they lost sales. They blockaded the road and forced police to re-open the road thus creating a 3 km long traffic jam of people wanting to go up Doi Suthep.

A lack of political will on the police and an inability to see other solutions that would please residents and vendors led to a huge problem, once again. Perhaps by looking at things from a different perspective they might have seen a way to have the drivers park at the vendors as well as go up the mountain. There are usually solutions but sometimes they aren’t so easily found when looking at things from the usual perspective.

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Looking at old problems in a new light