We’ve been brought up with a pretty linear approach to solving problems. Define, measure, analyse, improve, control. Find a subject matter expert, and off we go. Whilst that is a sound approach in a world of complicated, it is of much less use as complexity, with occasional chaos, becomes the order of the day. In a world defined by “wicked” problems that morph and adapt to any effort to manage them, linear doesn’t work, and there are no subject matter experts.
In a “wicked” world, the challenges we face are ours – we have a unique perspective on them and equally special abilities to address them, but we cannot outsource them to others. In such a place, the insight we need rarely lies with others in the same environment but rather in those who can give us a perspective from a different place altogether. Not with those who charge a fortune for expertise, but rather with those who have similar values and purpose operating in a different arena entirely.
On an everyday basis, I see people from very different backgrounds helping each other – accountants in the UK talking with designers in India and engineers in India talking to poets in Europe. Insight is more likely to be found in higher-level conversations around purpose and intent than in detailed discussions about particular symptoms of a specific organisation.
These conversations can feel strange – “inefficient,” slightly indulgent and time-consuming – but that is an illusion. Insight and connection do not follow a process; they are a function of chemistry and appear when we least expect them to.
When we’re stuck in a wicked problem, we will do better to stop looking for the “correct” answer and start looking for the right conversation.
The answer we need will find us.