Michael J. Gelb is an author and public speaker specializing in creativity and innovation. He once said: “Life is a continuous exercise in creative problem-solving.” Problem-solving is a critical skill to have if you’re going to be a leader, an innovator or a game-changer.
Everyone has problems in life. For the most part, we are able to quickly solve them without much trouble but major hurdles are disheartening, and they’re often unavoidable. The way you engage with and think about problems directly influences your ability to solve them.
Problems become more difficult when there is no obvious solution and strategies that you have tried in the past don’t work. These types of problems cause a great deal of stress and anxiety and require new and different strategies.
This made me think about my own problem-solving strategies and I thought of sharing Roland’s Triangle Guide with you. It is a model for handling complex situations.
The triangle guide is formed by three words:
It forms the basis of my approach to life and solving complex issues. I will typically approach complex problems inside this triangle. You can use the model as a triangle or as a cascade.
Let me put the three words in context:
I use integrity in the strong, long-term human context. Other words are Love or Honesty or Caring or Doing the right thing, etc. There is always a strong human side.
Trade-off is another word for Optimising. You just about always have to optimise – we live within restrictions – of money or behavioural norms and very seldomnly have enough resources, opportunities or leeway to not to have to choose between options. The optimisation can be a mathematical process (which industrial engineers and others love) or just weighing and balancing softer issues against each other.
3 Patterns / Pattern Recognition
What Patterns are at play? These can be trends or graphs or behaviours or data points. Even when you fall in love, you first notice a new pattern in your and / or the other persons behaviour. Do your homework – find the patterns – then analyse these.
The Roland triangle model was developed over many years as I was confronted by complex situations, and I (had to) develop small urgent tools to survive specific situations. As time passed, I realised these always tended to have aspects of the same elements in them – there was a pattern. In the last 15 years I moulded these into a bigger model – the one shown in here.
The next few slides show some of these early tools and how they form part of the bigger model.
Eventually you have to find a solution in total context of
- Where the patterns lead you,
- Where the optimised answer lies,
- Where you can live with integrity
I used the model (or early versions) throughout my career, and do easily pass it on to others to apply in their businesses and ventures in talks to young entrepreneurs.
I used it when confronted and I had to think deeply when considering doing certain (sometimes) difficult things (e.g. Retrenchments / Growing)
To accomplish tasks you have to learn to operate at three levels:
- Repetitive tasks happen best in ‘silo’ tasks – inside the organisation structure
- To optimise tasks you have to work along the horizontal process level – the x-axis
- To maintain sustainability you have to always fully allow for the people angle
If there always are only three ways to improve anything (another subject for another day), how does that fit into the model?
- Technical / Technological improvements
- Process improvements
- Attitude improvements
A tempting question for me: Could the model also stand the ‘test of time’ and the test of more conceptual ‘models’?
Author: Roland Rohrs: Chairman of the ODI Board