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Complex problems require new insights

Complex Problems Require New Insights

This week I’ve been attending the annual conference of the Canadian Society for Training & Development (CSTD) – I will be presenting a client case on the last day of the event. Listening to other speakers is a great opportunity to stop and reflect. A comment by a fellow presenter yesterday got me to think aboutblog post I recently wrote, which highlighted the power of the sentence “I need your help” when driving change.

The speaker in question was David Weiss and his presentation was titled: “Developing Leaders of Innovation”.

At one point Weiss discussed the difference between complicated and complex problems. He said the latter are characterized by a high degree of uncertainty; and that they cannot be easily broken down into simpler components.

As I was listening to Weiss, I thought that the people-related challenges faced by change leaders fall more often than not into the “complex” category. For example, going back to Hubert – the powerful executive in the story of the blog post – the problem I struggled with was rather complex: “Why isn’t Hubert putting his weight behind the change?”

Weiss also explained that new insights are necessary to resolve complex problems; hence they require leaders who are willing to say: “I don’t know”. His point explains in part the power of “I need your help“.

Indeed, when a change leader pronounces these four words, he is implicitly admitting he doesn’t know. This admission is the first step towards gaining new insights. Without these insights, the leader will continue to struggled with complex challenges linked to the people side of change.

As discussed in the blog post, it’s when I finally used the sentence “I need your help” that I gained critical insights into Hubert’s lack of support – courtesy of my colleague Jean-Pierre. As a result, we eventually solved the complex problem that Hubert’s resistance represented.

The take-away for change leaders?

Thanks to David Weiss, we better understand the power of the sentence:

I need your help…

So just say it! If you like what you get, then keep it in your change leadership toolbox. Otherwise, you can always put it in the garbage box. But first, give it a real try – in the real world.

IN SUMMARY

  • New insights are necessary to solve complex problems;
  • Hence complexity requires leaders who can admit they don’t know;
  • The human dimension of change is complex;
  • When a change leader says “I need your help“, he implies he doesn’t know;
  • This admission is the first step towards gaining new insights;
  • Without these insights, the change leader will continue to stuggle with the complexity of the human dimension;
  • This explains, in part, the power of the 4-word sentence “I need your help” when used in a change management context.

Edmond Mellina

Edmond Mellina is president & co-founder of ORCHANGO. He is internationally respected as an expert in change management when change is fast-pace, constant, overlapping and disruptive. For over 25 years, he has partnered with public and private sector clients in Europe, North America and the Middle East to build their change capabilities while helping them win in an increasingly digital world. Prior to co-founding ORCHANGO, Edmond was a corporate executive: CIO at Delta Hotels when Expedia disrupted the hotel business; VP Corporate Development & GM for the technology business of Envoy Communications Group when marketing agencies started to become digital. Edmond serves on the National Board of Directors of the Strategic Capability Network.

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