Are you ignoring complexity?
The world is full of complex and complicated problems and, unfortunately, there are plenty of simple solutions: solutions that appear to be sound when considering one aspect of the problem. Simple solutions –which the brain prefers- will not get us to where we need to go.
For example, how could we really stop global warming?
Focusing on increased carbon in the atmosphere is not just one thing, it is an interconnected tangle of economics, habits, societal structures, politics, international commerce, lifestyles, and many other factors. Solving this problem needs an immense amount of cooperation, a collection of people thinking through the influences and contributing factors and how those could be addressed.
Now, the problems that you are tackling in your work, are likely to be less complicated than global warming, but they are likely to be more complex than you might think at first.
The brain loves to solve problems – it feels good to come up with a solution. The brain would rather oversimplify and feel good about solving that simple problem than to be realistic about the real scope of the problem. This is why it is so easy to solve the world’s problems at the pub or to be a back-seat driver. In those moments, we do feel we have the answer – even if it is incredibly simplistic.
We need to recognise our tendency to go for simplicity. And instead of banking on a simple solution, let’s pause and look seriously at the bigger picture – what else is involved in this situation, what are the different influences and what are those connected to? Then we can start noticing how a partial solution will impact other parts of the problem creating ripple effects and possibly further problems.
What does it take to look at complexity?
First, it requires us to stop relying on our fast-to-fix part of the brain and instead, slow down and engage the slower executive functions of the brain. This allows us to think bigger/broader, to realise connections between different aspects of the situation and to deal with paradoxes and complicated interdependencies.
Most of our complex problems of the day are not going to be solved by a single brain. We need to be able to get multiple knowledgeable people together, people who can work together respectfully, people who can listen to others’ opinions especially when they might differ from their own. This introduces a little more complexity in the problem solving – these people will need to be able to collaborate well if this is to work.
At the risk of appearing simplistic, the ability to engage in complex problem solving is highly dependent on one thing: people managing their brains effectively. If they do, they will be able to see the multiple facets and interdependencies of the problem and they will be better at collaborating with others.
Managing brains effectively will only happen by:
- Using emotional intelligence – managing the brain’s emotional needs and paying attention to other people’s need
- Developing great communication skills – really listening to others and their ideas
- Building resilience – to stay with it even when it gets complicated
- Ensuring wellbeing – to shore up the part of the brain that allows all of the above to happen
We would like to help you and the world build more capacity for complex problem solving. Our programmes cannot solve your big problems but we can help you create the conditions where people use their brains more effectively. Then they will be able to handle more complexity and be better at collaborating with others as they address with complex problems together.The Hybrid DilemmaWe all need a break