McKinsey has a nice article helping to solve undecidability under uncertainty.
And since a picture is worth so many words:
Six mutually reinforcing approaches underly their success:
(1) being ever-curious about every element of a problem;
Think of the never-ending “whys”. Natural human biases in decision making, including confirmation, availability, and anchoring biases, often cause us to shut down the range of solutions too early.
One simple suggestion … to generate more curiosity in team problem solving is to put a question mark behind your initial hypotheses or first-cut answers.
Curiosity is the engine of creativity.
(2) being imperfectionists, with a high tolerance for ambiguity;
Most good problem solving has a lot of trial and error. The real world is highly uncertain. Unfortunately, we have truckloads of evidence showing that human beings aren’t good intuitive statisticians.
One of the keys to operating in uncertain environments is epistemic humility: “the realization that our knowledge is always provisional and incomplete—and that it might require revision in light of new evidence.”
We are better at solving problems when we think in terms of odds rather than certainties.
To embrace imperfectionism with epistemic humility, start by challenging solutions that imply certainty. “What would we have to believe for this to be true?”
Good problem solving typically involves designing experiments to reduce key uncertainties. Each move provides additional information and builds capabilities.
(3) having a “dragonfly eye” view of the world, to see through multiple lenses;
The idea of a dragonfly eye taking in 360 degrees of perception is an attribute of “superforecasters”—people, often without domain expertise, who are the best at forecasting events. They see multiple perspectives.
The secret to developing a dragonfly-eye view is to “anchor outside” rather than inside when faced with problems of uncertainty and opportunity.
Going through the customer journey with design-thinking in mind is another powerful way to get a 360-degree view of a problem.
But take note: when decision makers face highly constrained time frames or resources, they may have to narrow the aperture and deliver a tight, conventional answer.
(4) pursuing occurrent behavior and experimenting relentlessly;
Complex problems don’t give up their secrets easily.
Most of the problem-solving teams we are involved with have twin dilemmas of uncertainty and complexity, at times combined as truly “wicked problems.”
The mindset required to be a restless experimenter is consistent with the notion … of “failing fast.” Don’t take a lack of external data as an impediment—it may actually be a gift.
(5) tapping into the collective intelligence, acknowledging that the smartest people are not in the room;
It’s a mistake to think that your team has the smartest people in the room. They aren’t there. They’re invariably somewhere else. Nor do they need to be there if you can access their intelligence via other means.
The broader the circles of information you access, the more likely it is that your solutions will be novel and creative.
(6) practicing “show and tell” because storytelling begets action
The show-and-tell mindset aims to bring decision makers into a problem-solving domain you have created.
Herb Simon put it this way: “Solving a problem simply means representing it so as to make the solution transparent.”
The mindsets of great problem solvers are just as important as the methods they employ. A mindset that encourages curiosity, embraces imperfection, rewards a dragonfly-eye view of the problem, creates new data from experiments and collective intelligence, and drives action through compelling show-and-tell storytelling creates radical new possibilities under high levels of unpredictability. Of course, these approaches can be helpful in a broad range of circumstances, but in times of massive uncertainty, they are essential.
2 responses to “Six problem-solving mindsets for very uncertain times”
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