Complex problem solving skills are listed to be the most important skills for professionals in the 21st Century, according to the World Economic Forum. In every business the increase of complexity can be recognised. The good news is, the ability to solve complex problems can be trained by learning how to use a few effective problem solving methods.
There are several definitions for complex problems. Perhaps the most practicle is the next one: we don’t get it or don’t have control over it. Most of the times, complexity is a consequence of changing context, multiple (unknown) causes, multiple effects or risks, multiple parties being involved, lacking, wrong or fake information, etc. Talking about complex problems, we tempt to think about the rapid developments in technologies. Robotising, cloud computing, smart sensors, big data analytics, machine learning, IoT (the Internet of Things), etc., these are all development with huge potential for increasing performance. On the downside, beside a lost of specific jobs, these developments also have another consequence: the complexity is increasing. If something fails, it becomes more and more difficult to determine the cause(s).
Besides more complex problems because of further automation, there are many examples of other complex issues to solve in daily practice. Organisational issues, cooperational or communication issues, etc. All these issues have one thing in common: there is or was a clear distinction between the norm or expectation and the actual situation.
Complexity of Solving Issues
- The use of vague information, assumptions instead of facts or even “fake” information;
- “Jumping to conclusions”, drawing conclusions about causes with “tunnel vision”, based on knowledge and experience instead of carefull analysis and fact checking;
- “Jumping to solutions”, defining solutions or actions for improvement with a similar “tunnel vision’, without determining all causes first, to be certain which part of the problem will actually be taken care of with a certain action;
- “Trial and error”, a continuation of “jumping to solutions” and in the attempt to solve an issue.
- The complexity of technologies and the pace in which they develop makes it already a challenge on a individual level to maintain the right level of expertice in a specific discipline. To solve complex problems, it is therefore needed to cooperate with a team of experts from different disciplines;
- Outsourcing of certain discipline increases the amount of parties being involved with complex problems. With offshoring, the complexity increases also because of cultural differences;
- Solving complex problems often is hindered by existing work relations and interests of parties Discussions sometimes tend to focus more on “who to blame” then to determine the real root causes.
Methods for Complex Problem Solving
It doesn’t really matter if problems become more complex by themselves or if the process of solving problems becomes more complex. The conclusion will be the same: skills for complex problem solving is the key skill for a professional, now and in the near future.
- Innovative Root Cause Ananalysis
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