Gold Nugget #460: The Fastest Way to Solve Complex Challenges with David Komlos

In episode 460, David Komlos shares an innovative approach to tackling complex challenges at work.
David contrasts three types of challenges: Simple, Complicated, and Complex.
  • People solve simple challenges every day by connecting the dots. For example: driving a car.
  • Complicated challenges are trickier, but they have been solved many times before. For example: fixing a broken car.
  • Complex challenges have no person, guide, or prior experience to solve them. These challenges are extra tough. They require a whole group of people to solve it. Complex challenges are common in organizations of all sizes.
Bring all stakeholders together to solve a challenge extra quickly. David recommends solving complex challenges by involving all the stakeholders at once. Collect all the people you would contact for research, interviews, recommendations, and decision-making. Everyone interacts and challenges each other’s perspectives to build a shared understanding. Thusly, problem-solving accelerates.
Tackle complex challenges more efficiently with David’s 10-step process:
  1. Acknowledge the complexity and difficulty of the challenge–instead of shying away from it.
  2. Construct a really, really good question that provides a guideline for your challenge. (e.g., “What should we do over the next six months to grow by 15% over the next two years?”)
  3. Think about the usual suspects: the people you need to target to solve this question. Write down their names.
  4. Furthermore, consider the non-usual suspects. Their perspectives often generate fresh and innovative solutions.
  5. Localize these solvers. Bring them together, face-to-face, for best results.
  6. Prevent the noise. Enhance the meeting by briefing everyone in advance. Share the stated question and what you hope to achieve.
  7. DON’T pre-determine the agenda. Rather, let the team agree on the topics they need to discuss. This approach encourages ownership and engagement.
  8. Put people on a collision course. Ensure every person in the room interacts with everyone else as many times as possible.
  9. Ensure multiple engagements on the same subject. Have everyone involved brainstorm each topic 3-4 times to generate all possible solutions.
  10. Assign people roles: members, critic, and observer. Members directly discuss the topics. Critics listen carefully and provide feedback. Observers pay attention but don’t contribute. Rotate the roles among the members. This approach maximizes engagement by ensuring that everyone has a chance to speak and reflect.
Use the member/critic/observer roles in meetings of all sorts! Such groups start to become self-managing. The members look forward to hearing from the critics. The observers look forward to discussing after having listened so deeply.

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