Recently, I had a conversation with a dean of engineering. He was looking for a big idea—one to take his school from here (top 30 nationwide) to there—the ultra-nerd stratosphere.
A central aspect of my approach to solving complex problems builds on the widespread agreement that effective problem solvers are T-shaped, with both depth and breadth of knowledge.
Develop a breadth of skills & knowledge
The breadth of knowledge—what I call strategic thinking—includes having sufficient exposure to other fields so that you can “steal” ideas from them through, for instance, analogical problem solving. Many people are quick to dismiss the value of strategic thinking, calling it the “soft skills” or the “weak methods,” or pointing out that problem solving in one discipline doesn’t translate to another.
My upcoming book, Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving, is available for pre-order. It will ship on August 3, 2016.
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The book includes many of the ideas covered on this site with a deeper treatment and references. Here is a brief intro:
“Whether you are a student or a professional, you can benefit from being better at solving complex problems. Structured Problem Solving provides a general framework and practical tools to help you do so.
Confronted with a problem most of us are quick to think of solutions as ways to eliminate it. But those aren’t the only solutions. At times, you may be better off with a solution that helps you control how the problem unfolds, so also consider solutions that manage the problem.
Manage the problem – an example in healthcare
Dr. Gilbert Welch is an academic physician at Dartmouth who just released a great book: Less Medicine, More Health. The book challenges seven commonly held assumptions. One of those is that it’s always better to try to eliminate a problem. Well, that’s not necessarily true.