Five Routes to More Innovative Problem Solving—McKinsey Quarterly Reviewed by Momizat on . Tricky Problems Must be Shaped Before they Can be Solved.  To Start That Process, and Stimulate Novel Thinking, Leaders Should Look Through Multiple Lenses  In Tricky Problems Must be Shaped Before they Can be Solved.  To Start That Process, and Stimulate Novel Thinking, Leaders Should Look Through Multiple Lenses  In Rating: 0
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Five Routes to More Innovative Problem Solving—McKinsey Quarterly

Tricky Problems Must be Shaped Before they Can be Solved.  To Start That Process, and Stimulate Novel Thinking, Leaders Should Look Through Multiple Lenses 

In the April 2013 edition of McKinsey Quarterly, Olivier Leclerc and Mihnea Moldoveanu outline an approach for taking a number of different approaches simultaneously to solving difficult problems. These involve flexible approaches using team expertise.  Find out what “flexons” are, and how they offer a uniquely helpful approach to problem solving in today’s organizations. 

In today’s world, business leaders are operating in an era that’s increasingly complex, the tempo faster, the markets more volatile, and the stakes higher.  Since the number of variables challenging today’s business leaders can enormous,  the authors suggest  what they call flexible objects for generating novel solutions, or flexons, which provide a way of shaping difficult problems to reveal innovative solutions that would otherwise remain hidden. This approach can be useful in a wide range of situations and at any level of analysis, from individuals to groups to organizations to industries. An introductory anecdote helps explain a typical challenge: 

Rob McEwen had a problem. The chairman and chief executive officer of Canadian mining group Goldcorp knew that its Red Lake site could be a money-spinner—a mine nearby was thriving—but no one could figure out where to find high-grade ore. The terrain was inaccessible, operating costs were high, and the unionized staff had already gone on strike. In short, McEwen was lumbered with a gold mine that wasn’t a gold mine.

Then inspiration struck. Attending a conference about recent developments in IT, McEwen was smitten with the open-source revolution. Bucking fierce internal resistance, he created the Goldcorp Challenge: the company put Red Lake’s closely guarded topographic data online and offered $575,000 in prize money to anyone who could identify rich drill sites. To the astonishment of players in the mining sector, upward of 1,400 technical experts based in 50-plus countries took up the problem. The result? Two Australian teams, working together, found locations that have made Red Lake one of the world’s richest gold mines. “From a remote site, the winners were able to analyze a database and generate targets without ever visiting the property,” McEwen said. “It’s clear that this is part of the future.”1

McEwen intuitively understood the value of taking a number of different approaches simultaneously to solving difficult problems. A decade later, we find that this mind-set is ever more critical: business leaders are operating in an era when forces such as technological change and the historic rebalancing of global economic activity from developed to emerging markets have made the problems increasingly complex, the tempo faster, the markets more volatile, and the stakes higher. The number of variables at play can be enormous, and free-flowing information encourages competition, placing an ever-greater premium on developing innovative, unique solutions.

Read the whole piece here or download the PDF (free registration required).

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Teams of smart people from different backgrounds are more likely to come up with fresh ideas more quickly than individuals, argues a new piece in McKinsey Quarterly

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