In their book Cracking Complexity, David Komlos and David Benjamin share the steps to working through any complex business problem—both quickly and using existing talent, not consultants.
When asked how they developed this groundbreaking formula, they say, “We didn’t create the formula out of whole cloth; we stood on the shoulders of both obscure and mainstream luminaries like Warren McCulloch, W. Ross Ashby, Norbert Weiner, Buckminster Fuller, Russell Ackoff, Heinz von Foerster and Stafford Beer, spanning brain research, psychology, complexity science, systems thinking and cybernetics. It took centuries of their and others’ genius thought, wisdom accrued over lifetimes and much trial and error to get to the point and the time where we were ready to pull it across the finish line.”
Once they identified the steps, they started using the formula with senior leaders from across the Fortune 500, governments, and not-for-profit organizations in 2002.
David Komlos and David Benjamin answer more questions about their new book and what makes their formula uniquely applicable in today’s business world.
Why did you write this book?
We wrote the book to spread the word to organizational leaders that there is a ‘better mousetrap’ for solving big problems—they don’t have to spend millions of dollars and months or years to get to solutions that aren’t executed. Instead, with the formula we describe in the book, they can spend an order of magnitude less over the course of a few days to get to solutions that their people believe in and are mobilized to implement. The book is designed to equip businesses and social enterprises to do far better and go much faster at resolving their weighty challenges (whether that means better consumer products, better bottom-line financial results, or better therapies for oncology patients, for example).
What defines a complex problem?
Complex problems—like doubling growth, taking out cost, merging, leading in customer experience, etc.—are dynamic, unpredictable, untidy, perplexing and don’t come with right answers, only best attempts. They require new solutions each time, created specifically for the circumstances, and you can only know that you’ve addressed them successfully in retrospect. And, they require stakeholder buy-in for sustained execution. Contrast that with a complicated challenge, where someone with expertise (you or someone you hire) can reliably and repeatedly solve it no matter the situation. Fixing a car is complicated; fixing a city’s transportation infrastructure is complex. Implementing an accounting package is complicated; figuring out what needs to change in a low-growth accounting firm is complex.