Developing-Leaders-issue-31-2019

Developing Leaders Issue 31: 2019 | 95 Exec Ed Update The authors point out that “the core problem of problem solving” comes from the dichotomy between the brain’s two modes of thought – fast, instinctive, and emotional, or slow, deliberative, and logical – and that the answer to successful problem solving is for people to be “as thorough as Hamlet and as action orientated as Othello,” but crucially without Hamlet’s analysis paralysis or Othello’s disastrous jumping too fast to the wrong conclusion. With a focus on business and illustrated by real-life examples, from Airbus to Starbucks, the book describes the critical thinking principles needed to circumvent five problem-solving pitfalls: flawed problem definitions; confirmation bias that pursues flawed solutions despite contrary evidence; using known frameworks instead of being open to fresh viewpoints; framing problems too narrowly without seeing the bigger picture; and communicating the solution badly so that even if it is good and viable it is either not taken up or poorly implemented. The book describes a disciplined, iterative, process the authors call the 4S method (State, Structure, Solve and Sell), which introduces concepts such as: developing a problem statement; using hypothesis pyramids or issue trees or design thinking; prototyping or analysis to test solutions; and finally developing a clear storyline (before creating slick visuals) in order to create a persuasive presentation to sell the solution. With the coming age of AI maybe the problem-solving techniques described in this book will become redundant. Maybe machines will solve our business problems for us – or maybe not. For now, in today’s increasingly complex world, the practical advice provided here remains invaluable. Today we have better tools for analysis and with ‘big data’ access to far more information on the business environments we operate in, but information alone is not enough. We need the expertise to use it effectively. n

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