In my original post in this series ( http://bit.ly/2v8mXJm ), I listed the top 10 skills employers will be looking for in their future employees. At long last we have arrived at the #1 skill you will need to acquire to be successful in the future. Complex problem solving.
Why is Complex Problem Solving so Important?
Robots are replacing people. Why? Because robots can do repetitive tasks with skill and dexterity greater than human beings. They can also do these tasks over long periods of time and never make a mistake.
People are also being replaced by software technology using algorithms. An algorithm is a mathematical formula for accomplishing a well-defined task. Software technology can count, add, subtract, multiply, divide, search, compare, compile, and analyze patterns in huge amounts of data at speeds beyond human comprehension.
But, contrary to popular belief, guess what robots and software can’t do? Think! Only people can exercise human judgment and apply it to given situations.
So while robots and software might be able to tell you there is a problem, only you can fix it.
Complex Problem Solving Defined
The process of complex problem solving can be broken down into a number of steps:
- Identify the problem. This is not always as easy as it sounds. The problem itself may be buried beneath a number of adverse effects showing up in a system.
- Identify the causes. These could be the task itself, or systems control issues, equipment, people, even personality clashes, or any combination of these factors.
- Look for solutions. Here is where human judgment comes in. You will evaluate possible outcomes and seek the one that produces the most desirable solution. Here you may wind up settling for the least bad outcome you can find.
- Make a decision and put it in place. Pick an answer and go for it.
- Evaluate feedback. Is your solution working? Or not? Use feedback to adjust your solution to achieve maximum results.
Here is the Opportunity
Can you see where the opportunity is in these situations? The good news is we are all somewhat skilled in solving problems. It comes with being human. The better news is complex problem solving is like any other skill. It improves with practice.
Once again the internet comes to the rescue. Google “Learn to solve complex problems” and you will find over 3 million results. There are plenty of resources there you can use to improve your problem solving abilities.
My favorite source as you well know is books. Here are two to get you started.
The first is “The Head Game” by Philip Mudd. An ex CIA Analyst, Mudd outlines a fascinating process anyone can use to improve their complex problem solving skills. He uses real-life situations from his years in the Agency to showcase these methods.
The second is “Systems Thinking for Social Change,” by David Peter Stroh. This book is more technical. In it, Stroh explains how to apply systems thinking to solve complex problems of all types.
There are links below if you wish to get these excellent books. (Full disclosure, I am an Amazon Affiliate.)
Whatever direction you choose, I urge you to start now. Improving this skill will put you in high demand in the coming years.