8. October 2022
Six problem-solving mindsets for very uncertain times
In a transformation, it’s important to have the right mindset when solving complex problems in an uncertain context. I like the ‘six mutually reinforcing mindsets’ for great problem solving as mentioned in a recent article by C. Conn and R. McLean on McKinsey & Company Quarterly:
- Being ever-curious about every element of a problem.
In times of uncertainty, awaken the curious child in you and relentlessly ask “Why?”. For example, as a team, always put a question mark after your initial hypothesis and answers. Have blue and red teams arguing for and against a solution, etc. Curiosity drives creativity. Don’t jump to conclusions.
- Being imperfectionists, with a high tolerance of ambiguity.
Good problem solving involves a lot of trial and error to get new data points/insights. Guesses based on gut feelings can be wildly wrong. The key to acting in uncertain environments is epistemic humility: recognising that our knowledge is provisional, incomplete and may need to be revised in light of new evidence.
- Having a „dragonfly eye“ view of the world to see through multiple lenses.
Analyze problems through multiple lenses. Look for threats and opportunities beyond the periphery of the field of vision. Anchor across the broader ecosystem and communicate with multiple stakeholders to get a 360-degree view.
- Pursuing occurrent behavior and experimenting relentlessly.
This is behavior that actually occurs. Don’t rely on historical data, but experiment, learn and fail fast when dealing with a new situation. The required mindset is to be a restless experimenter. In this way, one can generate unique data that is not available yet, and gain insights others do not have.
- Trapping into the collective intelligence, acknowledging that the smartest people are not in the room.
Crowdsource the brightest minds outside your circle to debate and discuss. In an ever-changing world, it is okay to seek the advice of experts to gain more insights. The wider the circle of information you access, the more likely your solutions will be new and creative.
- Practicing „show and tell“ because storytelling begets action.
Be clear about the change actions that should flow from your problem solving and findings. Find a way to present your logic visually and present the solution emotionally and logically. Justify why it offers an attractive balance of risks and rewards. Also make clear the risks of inaction. This is how you can shape the debate.
Which of these mindsets can you use even more to solve your most inscrutable problems?