Saturday, October 27, 2018

How to Creatively and Systematically Solve Problems Really Matter

The matter of fact is that the more complex the situation is, the more creative approaches and role gaming are needed to reach for insightful understanding and effective problem-solving.

Fundamentally, running a business is a change and problem-solving continuum. The world becomes overly complex and paradoxical. Business problems are like jigsaw puzzles, intricated and sometimes make you feel the lack of clues. The assumption that there is a single cause to a "problem" in a complex adaptive system such as today’s business is unhelpful. There are often multiple and inter-related dynamics behind complex problems and you need to be looking for patterns rather than isolating causes for solving them effectively. Problem-solving is both art and science. Can you diagnose the real problem? Does every problem have solutions? How to identify problems really matter and solve them creatively and systematically?

Look uphill to identify the real problems: There are so many things going on these days, the blurred business borders, the exponential growth of information, inevitable changes with increasing pace, and disruptive technologies, etc. That means the more problems will emerge and businesses must overcome the challenges. Businesses have limited resources, time, and talent. Thus, looking uphill can help to identify the real problems that matter, and on a scale that can make a difference. Besides macro and large-scale problems, there are also the intermediate and micro levels of problems. Many problems do exist because they are either ill-defined or the concept cannot be adequately captured contextually. Some problems seem irrational as they are caused by people’s emotional reaction to a set of circumstances or events. This can appear to be illogical. Some problems are the symptoms; when you try to fix them, the real problems will keep coming back. Further, there’s the problem that the same word means different things to different people because they carry different emotional baggage or have cognitive differences to understand what the real problem is. Always remember that problems exist not in isolation, but as an interacting system of problems. In today’s hyperconnected and interdependent business world, solving problems really matter could also mean that there is the opportunity you can take care of a chain of problems, not just an individual problem. But if you spot the wrong problem, it perhaps means more damage than what you think of. For either organizations or individuals, how do you get motivated to be innovative on a daily basis by solving real-world problems large or small, in a creative and systematical way? It’s critical to look deeply into the future which can have a profound effect on where you go, what are roadblocks (those large problems) or potential pitfalls (the hidden issues which perhaps cause more problems later on), and how you get there? A better problem-diagnose scenario that crosses all industries is to keep peeling back the layers to discover the root cause by asking “WHYs,” or taking other system analysis to discover the real cause and address it.

The digital leaders need to be highly capable problem-solvers: Problem-solving is both art and science. It involves breaking down complex problems into smaller pieces, and then take logical steps to solve them in a structured way. High mature digital leaders have strong capabilities to solve critical business problems skillfully; Capability = Capacity + Ability. It’s not necessary or unrealistic to solve every problem on their own, but they should be responsible to ensure that the right people getting the right information at the right time for making good decisions and solving right business problems effectively. High mature organizations have a strong capacity to leverage resources, time, and human capital to solve business problems really matter in both effective and efficient ways. Digital professionals have to leverage both their intuition skills and analytics ability to solve problems. Besides logic, there is a role for intuition in problem-solving as well. Sometimes breakthrough ideas or creative solutions are rarely or never logical in foresight, but they will look logical in hindsight. Do not forget to get the measurement tools to evaluate problem-solving results and make continuous improvements. Keep in mind, learning and having great tools will give you a variety of ways to improve problem-solving competency.

Simplicity: The world becomes more dynamic, complex, and paradoxical, balance is the leverage for the problem-solving and in-depth understanding of economic and social systems. It doesn’t mean that every complex problem will have a complex solution. As Albert Einstein well put, that every solution to the problem should be as simple as possible, but no simpler. It means that a problem has an inherent and irreducible complexity; any attempt to simplify further than that will fail and any complexity added to it is harmful. The logical problem-solving scenario does conform to a sequence, a focus or a goal, a motivation to explore proposals, a willingness to imaginatively explore alternative solutions. You seek for inventions, new designs, creative problem-solving. You should also leverage systems thinking because the system view of the business world are balanced and objective and it is sensitive to the emergent factors; it keeps information and ideas flow and generates a variety of options to deal with complexity, ambiguity, and uncertainty of the digital world. In practice, a good problem-solving framework helps to leverage a structured methodology, weight in varying decision factors, and apply efficient tools, which allow you to frame problems systematically and solve complex problems in a structural way.

Either for individuals, organizations, or society as a whole, the problem-solving capability is crucial to surviving and thriving. The problem-solving logic is just so simple - diagnose the real problem and solve it in the right way. However, the problem-solving thought process and practices will not be simple for many of today’s complex issues or vexing problems. The matter of fact is that the more complex the situation is, the more creative approaches and role gaming are needed to reach for insightful understanding and effective problem-solving.


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