Mark and I just returned from spending the last two days at the Cognitive Edge accreditation program run by Dave Snowden. Dave was in great form, and all fluffy bunny jokes aside, I found that Dave helped to bring theoretical focus and insight back into our ways of practice. One strong point I felt coming through was the appreciation of wicked problems (intractable problems).
A great quote I’ve come across on wicked problems is:
Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.
When it comes to considering problems around aspects like culture & culture change, organisational change, learning it is a common trap for people to think that getting more and more data, more and more analysis, will help to ‘solve’ the problem. Appreciating that such problems might in fact be wicked or intractable problems is the first step towards developing a whole new mindset for working towards what to do. The next step, in our opinion, and Dave’s is to then find ways to explore patterns and meaning. And there is no better way to get access to patterns and meaning then through story and narrative approaches. One great way which we have found helpful for organisations is to get started with Anecdote Circles.
A paradox which emerged for me earlier this year has been “Being happy with not knowing yet having the desire to know”. This paradox was reconfirmed for me over the last two days with Dave. It’s interesting that these approaches to ‘problems’ seem focussed on drawing out the time taken to action. Drawing out the time taken to decision making. Drawing out the time taken to gather stories of what’s going on. Drawing out the time taken for everyone to gain more perspectives on what’s going on.
How often do you find yourself rushing in to solve a problem? Maybe it’s time to take some time…Can you “be happy with not knowing yet maintain a desire to know” ?
About Andrew Rixon