Henry David Thoreau, the 19th century poet and philosopher, offered a pithy observation that’s relevant to 21st century problem-solvers. He said, “for every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root.”
Albert Einstein, a more recent brainiac, offered additional perspective: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Some business people seem to assume that their most vexing challenges will take years to unravel. But David Benjamin and David Komlos—leaders at a Toronto-based firm called Syntegrity—use an action formula they say shortens the process of solving an organization’s toughest challenges to mere days.
They’ve refined their Complexity Formula, with origins in cybernetics and systems-thinking during two decades of working with Fortune 500 CEO, policymakers, global product leaders, government officials and global associations.
Their new book is titled Cracking Complexity: The Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just About Anything Fast
Benjamin and Komlos provide some thought-provoking insights into problem-solving.
Rodger Dean Duncan: What’s the difference between a complex problem and a complicated problem?
David Benjamin: Complicated problems, like repairing a car or installing new accounting software, are solved problems. They exhibit clear cause-and-effect, and a solution can be applied repeatedly and mechanistically by following a known checklist. You might need help from an expert to execute the checklist, and typically there are many such experts and specialized firms who will be happy to do so.
Complex challenges, like growing faster, merging, digitizing, taking out cost, or transforming, are categorically different. They are not solved. They are human challenges with many interdependent moving parts. Those “moving parts” frequently change, and for this reason no two instances of similar complex problems are the same. A “double-our-growth-rate” challenge is very different from company to company, and very different even within the same company from year-to-year.
For a complicated challenge, the best approach is to find an expert who has solved it many times before. But your approach to solving a complex one must be completely different. Complex problems linger because better approaches to solving them are not yet widespread.
Duncan: How can a complex problem be quickly identified and assessed for solution?
Benjamin: You can easily detect that a problem is complex by asking yourself a few questions about it, like—Has this been solved before and would that same solution work now? Is the solution closer to science than art? Is there a checklist that someone could use to solve it? Is there a pre-packaged solution you could buy and/or an expert you could pay a fixed-fee to solve it for you? If the answer is yes to these questions, the problem isn’t complex. Even easier than that, if it’s a problem that’s persisted for months or years and it only seems to be getting worse no matter what you try, it’s likely complex.
To get a handle on the problem, once you know it’s complex, try to write down the question you would need to answer in order to resolve it. Load the question with a clear goal, a call to action, and compelling words that will stimulate tension and passion in people charged with answering it. Don’t just ask—“How can we double the business by 2021?” Instead, ask “What must we do starting now and over the next 18 months to hit $2B by 2021 with current or better margins, while continuing to be a great company to work with and for?”
With that question in hand, your job in assessing the complexity becomes finding and convening the absolute best group of people who can collectively answer it. Dig deep on this and really suss out how to get representation of all the perspectives, roles, levels of the hierarchy, geographies, business units, personality types, eventual decision-makers and doers, and outsiders who would really bring everything you need into the room. That group will do the rest, from assessing the problem to finding answers.
Duncan: What’s the key to framing questions that help produce viable solutions to complex problems?
Benjamin: A good question will stimulate the right focus and conversations among all the right people brought together to find solutions. Make the question compelling. Include a stretch goal that is attainable but only if things change. Give boundaries so that scope is clear, but be careful about imposing unnecessary constraints that might prevent people from exploring new terrain where great answers potentially lie. Call for action, be clear on who is being called, and give a clear timeline that conveys the right sense of urgency.
Here are a few examples of what we would consider to be good questions—
Rodger Dean Duncan is the bestselling author of LeaderSHOP: Workplace, Career, and Life Advice From Today's Top Thought LeadersFollow on Twitter @DoctorDuncan
Read the Article on forbes here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/rodgerdeanduncan/2019/05/01/wouldnt-you-like-to-solve-just-about-anything-fast/#34751a643b07
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