Thursday, September 17, 2020

Navigating Uncertainty to Solve Complex Problems Effectively

Thought processes and practices will not be simple for many of today’s complex problems. All stages must be handled with attention and proficiency to ensure long-term success.

Today’s business problems are complex and interdependent due to increasing paces of changes, volatile market situations, extreme competition, and emergent digital technology trends. So many factors need to be considered in order to both understand and solve problems effectively. 

In practice, there’s the “problem of defining a problem” with its cause-driven by people’s ability to make sense out of uncertainty. The lack of clarity usually surrounds the context of the decision to be taken. Nothing is clear or concise. The synthetic “problem-solving” competency is integrated by a couple of professional capabilities

Cognitive capability: Generally speaking, cognition is the ability to understand and approach a problem. Cognition can happen in many different ways and their combinations and it is a perception and sensation, cognitive complexity is a multifaceted issue. In specific, cognition is a faculty for processing information, exploring varieties of meanings or thoughts, abandoning old and establishing new relations, applying relevant knowledge, and changing preferences in order to solve complex problems effectively.

The problem is that we all have a cognitive bias, whether individually or collectively. These cognition gaps create obstacles for defining the right problems or solving them smoothly. To avoid such pitfalls, it’s important to harness the different experiences, perspectives, and ideas of people, look at the wider aspect around any problem, and dig deeper to understand the effect of imposing boundaries within that space in order to overcome the challenges. When people with a wide range of perspectives work together; not just people of different ages, genders, or races, but people who are different across every dimension with different cognitive skills, backgrounds, life experiences, and personalities, etc, you can always gain insight and empathy to understand problems from the other angle and be creative to figure out alternative solutions.

Strategic reasoning: To solve the real problem rather than fixing symptoms, it’s important to apply strategic thinking to diagnosing the root cause, make the right choice, and solve it smoothly. It requires a multidimensional understanding of both tangible and intangible elements and overcoming rigid polarity. Too often, assumptions and prejudices get in the way of in-depth understanding. Without strategic reasoning, you perhaps focus on making a seemingly right decision for fixing a small issue, but unfortunately cause bigger issues or create more problems later on.

In face of unprecedented uncertainty and high velocity, it’s important to deepen the level of understanding of complex issues via analyzing and synthesizing information. Digital leaders and professionals today need to be in a continuous learning mode with interdisciplinary knowledge, strategic reasoning skills, challenging existing thoughts, knowledge, or standards, seeking additional knowledge and experience, and dealing with "complex problems or rewriting the rules of the competitive game" to overcome the challenge.

Continuous adjustment: Digital means the exponential growth of information and continuous technology disruption. Put simply, there are known unknown and unknown unknown; there are existing problems and emerging problems. There is always some remaining uncertainty when solving complex problems or running dynamic businesses today. The mission can be achieved if the management can truly have a humble attitude to collect information and feedback, do enough homework, deal with paradoxes, and make necessary adjustments.

Converting from the mechanistic paradigm to the systems paradigm requires starting with new system-oriented beliefs and thought processes and the linear system perception is replaced by complex adaptive systems. A systematic process for problem-solving goes between flexibility and hard process, to make a smooth transition from pursuing the perfect solution which perhaps does not exist to making continuous adjustment and improvement. Collaboratively, human society is at a turning point that requires a significant adjustment in our evolutionary path for solving a variety of complex but critical problems and leapfrog collective progress.

Thought processes and practices will not be simple for many of today’s complex problems. All stages must be handled with attention and proficiency to ensure long-term success. It’s important to navigate uncertainty, gain a comprehensive understanding of real issues, develop effective frameworks, or deduct digital formulas to solve problems smoothly.


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