Working on Challenges is Like Being a Formula 1 Racer

Interview with IdeaConnection problem solver Ilie Saracovan
By Paul Arnold
Former Pfizer chemist Ilie Saracovan runs a mobile drug testing business, Eastern Testing Services that among other duties conducts random testing of workers operating heavy machinery.

He heard about IdeaConnection at a webinar organized by the American Chemical Society as he was looking for consulting opportunities beyond the traditional consulting model.

photo of Ilie SaracovanIlie is now on his forth challenge and was recently part of a successful problem-solving team. Here, he talks about his experience delivering solutions for IdeaConnection’s clients.

It really excites me to see challenges and to try and solve them. The adrenalin is like being a Formula 1 car racer. Every challenge is like a new race and we want to win, although we don’t necessarily want to win because of the award. It’s for the feeling you get once you know that your idea or what you propose does in fact help to solve a problem.

What’s that feeling like when you arrive at a solution after having worked on it for several weeks with your team?

I cannot compare it with anything. You really feel happy, really happy. The entire team feels the excitement. Wow, our idea was accepted. It’s a terrific feeling of accomplishment and you want to do more. It never stops. It’s an addictive feeling I would say.

Does that drive you on to do more challenges to get that feeling again?

Well yes, that’s it exactly.

Are you working on problems that are within your own fields of expertise or are they in unfamiliar territory?

One of the challenges was pretty much in my field, although I think being in your field is difficult. That's because most of the solutions require you to think outside the box. You may have good ideas but you have become too entrenched in the concepts, knowledge and ideas of your field. It’s harder then to think outside of the box which is really what new ideas require.

Overall, I think you really have to have good knowledge of some basic principles. In a way I’m lucky because my background is diverse. I have an engineering background, a physical chemistry background and I have lots of knowledge of chemistry. That’s useful because there are general science principles that you will use trying to solve problems outside of your field.

So do you like tackling problems outside of your own field?

One of the advantages and beauties of tackling problems outside your field is that you have to get educated very fast. You have weeks not months or years to solve a problem or come up with an innovative idea, so you have to quickly educate yourself. And once you have educated yourself you apply that new knowledge immediately.

Of course, you work in a team and sometimes someone in the team has more knowledge about an area. That’s the beauty of working in a diverse team. Even if you are not the “leading expert” it will help you broaden your knowledge so you are able to make connections between the fields. You will make connections interacting with other people in your team.

Do you enjoy the learning aspect or is it a chore?

Well, if you don’t like learning I don’t think you should be here. You know, every single challenge comes with learning. You have to have this desire to keep on learning. Every challenge is a learning experience.

How does diversity of team members help to solve problems?

Well, it’s having the diversity of knowledge, diversity of culture and diversity of thinking. You find a team which is just like a dream team. Everybody comes from different angles and that really enriches the idea. It’s not only one idea; it’s probably two or three or probably more depending on the complexity of the challenge.

You immediately feel that once you bounce an idea to the other guys they will build on it. They will criticize it in a good spirit and find the flaws. You feel that your buddies will help you and you will help them.

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