“Complex Problem Solving” as Top Priority of Leading Organizations

To be successful today and in the future, what is it most critical that you know how to do?  According to the 2018 “Future of Jobs” report from the World Economic Forum, leaders from around the world agree that “complex problem solving” is a top priority.

“With regard to the overall scale of demand for various skills in 2020, more than one third (36%) of all jobs across all industries are expected by our respondents to require complex problem-solving as one of their core skills.”

Most people assume that complex problem solving is for people who think long-term and strategically, like an army General or a CEO.   But, before we accept that assumption, what is complex problem solving?  The OECD defines “complex problem solving” as “developed capacities used to solve novel, ill-defined problems in complex, real-world settings.” This is a practical skill everyone needs for daily living, for consciously choosing the agreements they enter.

To see the embedded choices hidden in our social agreements, and to see how to liberate and engage the vast creative energy we each bring to everything we do every day, we need to understand how to make decisions in the complexity of social systems.  The World Economic Forum “Future of Jobs” report suggests that 36% percent of jobs will require this capacity in the next years.  I believe that everyone everywhere should be able to choose their agreements everyday.  My colleagues and I call this eCubed (everyone everywhere everyday).  eCubed suggests that everybody needs the capacity for complex problem solving everywhere everyday, right now.

The skills for complex problem solving can be developed by everyone.  They include:

  • defining a clear, concise, validated, and mutually owned objective function — this requires knowing what a clear, deeper shared purpose is and how to achieve it
  • defining the system of interrelated people and resources that, together, generate the desired dynamics of the objective function — this requires basic systems thinking skills
  • clarifying the actual values of each stakeholder influencing the desired dynamics, specifying the dimensions and parameters they use to make the decisions that influence actual dynamics — this requires knowing how to inquire, asking questions that identify and validate specific parameters
  • designing agreements based on efficiency, effectiveness, and impact resilience — this requires knowing how to put all of the other elements together, and how to choose agreements that meet these criteria

My colleagues and I, as well as millions of others around the world, have been teaching these basic skills for decades to people ranging in age from 5 to 100 years old.  Everyone can do this.  And, it gives them the capacity to choose their agreements, to decide what they give their yes to, everyday everywhere.

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