Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Applying Systems Thinking to Solve Complex Problems

Technically, it’s important to build a comprehensive framework, develop systematic methods and practices, leverage interdisciplinary knowledge, and take systematic approaches to pursue optimal solutions.

Due to the exponential growth of information and rapid changes, many of today’s problems are over-complex and interdependent. Sometimes, you try to fix one piece of the problems but cause more issues later on. Thus, all stages must be handled with attention and proficiency to ensure success.

Organizations today have to aggressively leverage digital information technologies, collaboration platforms, and tools as the enabler of communication, collaboration, social interaction, and brainstorming, for proactively engaging in problem-solving systematically.

Leverage Systems Thinking for identifying the root cause of a problem and core issues of a situation that leads to understanding the resolution: Understanding a problem is the most critical step in solving it. Oftentimes, people have a tendency to try to fix a symptom that results from the actual cause of the problem, but fixing the wrong cause of a problem will waste time and resources, increase anxiety and cause chaos. It is a great technique to leverage Systems Thinking for complex problem definition with boundaries, depending on what you consider relevant and endogenous as your hypothesis regarding why these things have evolved in a certain way.

With emerging business opportunities and risks, 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. Systems thinking defines how we perceive the "problem” and provides an insight into the emergent inherent properties, both the positive emergent issues required and the negative emergent issues (known and previously unrecognized problems) that come about. Because it allows people to understand the interconnectivity and interdependence of the parts and the whole. The goal is to solve problems in a holistic way.

The best thing is to leverage Systems Thinking for producing cause and effect models and predict outcomes: System thinking defines how one perceives "problems." The predictive “cause and effect” in system dynamics can include nonlinear cause and effect models. Because of interconnectivity and the many potential options in a complex system, a small effect in one place can cause a cascade of events that produce deceptive output measures that are highly variable. Thus, it’s important to leverage System principles to understand the interconnectivity and do an in-depth cause-effect analysis, simplify complicated things, and deal with uncertainty smoothly.

When cross-functional communication and collaboration are enforced, Systems Thinking does indeed lead to predicting outcomes. This is especially true of controlling costs, scope creep, and associated re-work. The comprehensive solution to a complex business problem requires both cross-domain knowledge and break down of the silo mentality. That means you need to combine or integrate different pieces of answers to ensure a cohesive solution to larger problems with fewer side effects.

With a greater understanding of the problems via Systems Thinking lens, the trick is to increase the influence and be part of the solutions: Adept intent systems thinkers are typically more interested in understanding than being a legend in their own mind, continually investigating via any means possible to further understanding, and avoid falling into linear thought traps from time to time. Systematic problem-solving generally requires the ability to recognize problems, find workable means for meeting those problems, gather and marshal pertinent information, to recognize unstated assumptions and values, in order to come up with a holistic solution.

The success of any problem-solving must follow a set of digital principles, including Systems Thinking, as well as the welfare of the principals, employees, giving them active roles in solving real issues, make them feel important, appreciate and reward them. Digital leaders and professionals today should have a learning attitude to think about alternative solutions and focus on effective problem-solving, but not finger-pointing.

Cognitively, it’s important to leverage different thought processes to solve problems systematically or analytically or both. Technically, it’s important to build a comprehensive framework, develop systematic methods and practices, leverage interdisciplinary knowledge, and take systematic approaches to pursue optimal solutions.


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