Harnessing complexity takes time and effort

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —January 13, 2006
Filed in Communication

Late last year I facilitated an open space event involving knowledge coordinators from a large government agency. These coordinators had never attended an open space event and it was interesting to watch how each person reacted to the format. At about the half way mark I could tell that one person in particular was bothered by the proceedings. “It’s moving too slow. Why can’t we just jump into designing the solution?” she quipped. As a good open space facilitators I kept my mouth shut and only asked a few questions. At the end of the day my agitator approach me and said, “We needed to go through all that discussion and I’m glad we did.”

With this anecdote in mind I was heartened to read this comment by Dave Pollard:

Most participants have been taught to address ‘problems’ in certain traditional ways that are well-suited for simple and complicated problems but often ill-suited to complex situations. We tend to embrace these inappropriate techniques too readily, instead of using the more difficult, unfamiliar and time-consuming processes appropriate to dealing with complex issues, and allowing understanding and resolutions to emerge instead of jumping to quick, comfortable, traditional ‘solutions’.

Tough problems can’t be resolved in one fell swoop. They take time and dedication and a willingness to listen and learn from others. Those people who believe there are quick and efficient solutions to issues such as culture change, leadership, innovation, and any of the other myriad of business issues involving people will be equally deluded in the following 12 month ad-infinitum as nothing improves.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

One Response to “Harnessing complexity takes time and effort”

  1. LuKasnet Blog Says:


    La capacidad de decodificar las intenciones de otras personas es fundamental para comprender el comportamiento humano. Interpretamos las conductas de una persona en términos de las intenciones que dan lugar a esos gestos, posiciones, miradas o p…

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