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Learning Nugget 4 - Solving Wicked Problems

Ask yourself……what am I selling ?

UCCaaS, Customer Contact technology, SIP trunks ?

Trick question right, we know we can’t talk about products or services, we need to talk about capabilities, so of course we are selling business outcomes. But do you own or control your clients business outcomes ?

The fact is you are actually selling change.

Clients want better business outcomes, here’s the flow of better outcome achievement:

  • I want better business outcomes (increased revenue, decreased costs and mitigated business risk)

  • I develop ideas that I believe will deliver meaningful impact agains those goals

  • I implement those ideas and convert those with promise to initiatives

  • I measure success of those initiatives against the desired outcomes

As we learned in Learning Nugget 2, those ideas almost always involve three discreet elements;

  1. Business Process Improvement or, better yet, Business Process Innovation

  2. Enabling Technologies to provide the tools needed to support those new Business Processes

  3. Culture Change, meaning having people successfully leverage those new tools and processes to do their work together differently and better

When creating opportunities with clients, when envisioning ideas with them of ways they can do business differently and better using the collaborating and customer experience capabilities you offer, your ideas will absolutely involve your customers changing all three, Changing their processes, their technology and their behaviours and culture.

Your ideas are based in the want, need and desire for change.

With that in mind what type of problems are your ideas typically addressing ?

There are many types of problems, but there are four by definition.

  1. Simple

  2. Complex

  3. Wicked and

  4. Super Wicked.

The below graphic does a great job of explaining the first three

To read more about Wicked problems follow this link :

Your clients have the ability internally to solve simple and complex problems. They have the maturing, access to the right talent and IQ to define and solve these two types. "They can see what they see”

What they can’t see is Wicked problems. These problems are defined as;

  • The problem is not understood until after the formulation of a solution.

  • Wicked problems have no stopping rule.

  • Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong.

  • Every wicked problem is essentially novel and unique.

  • Every solution to a wicked problem is a 'one shot operation.

  • Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions.

These ambiguous, chaotic, conflicting and unquantifiable problems, that require changes in beliefs, behaviours and/or identity are hard problems to solve. In fact they are hard to define.

Some organisations are faced with Super Wicked problems. In short these have all the characteristics of Wicked Problems PLUS;

  • Time is running out.

  • No central authority.

  • Those seeking to solve the problem are also causing it.

  • Policies discount the future irrationally.

I saw a classic case of this the other day. The local Taxi industry went on strike in protest to Uber.

Think abut this. They are striking cause Uber has changed the rules, time is running out for their old world business model. They want to solve the problem (by resisting change), by striking they believe they will draw attention to their cause. But those trying to solve the problem are causing it and their policies are irrational. While they were on strike, what was the only way for their customers to move around town…oh, I know….Uber.

So while they were on strike, they drove their customers to their competition. How many used Uber that day that may never have used it, as they were the laggards to change. Their strike forced their customers (even the laggards) to get a taste of a better experience.

The change you are selling is not going to be to solve traditional problems, like lower the cost of trunking (or any other cost related goal). They are going to be revenue and/or business risk related problems. How to overcome disruption, how to prevent commoditisation, how to change the business or operating model.

In fact how your ideas confront, and not merely respond to, but rather generate opportunity from the 5 Macro disruptive Forces (ASPIRE! Group – Aug 2014);

  1. Global Commoditization and The “Big Shift”

  2. The Ascendance of Institutional Innovation

  3. Cloud Services Disruption of Business and Economic Models

  4. The Buying Revolution

  5. Talent Gap for the “Creative Economy”

In the past organisations might be faced with one of these types of macro challenges, and they would have maybe 12-18 months to react to it and manage it. Now they are hit with all 5 simultaneously and have barely 3-6 months to respond to the waves of change in each one.

Solving Wicked and Super Wicked problems requires organisations to think and act differently, to change their business, profit and operating models, to re0invent their customer experiences.

To achieve that they need to evolve to new systems of intelligence (ASPIRE! Group – May 2015):

Your collaboration and CX offerings enable and empower Systems of Intelligence.

But they will only successfully transform to innovative Systems of Intelligence via an Integrative Thinking model.

Integrative Thinking was invented by Dr Roger Martin (Rotman School of Management), he says:

"a discipline and methodology for solving complex or wicked problems....the ability to constructively face the tensions of opposing models, and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generating a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new model that contains elements of the individual models, but is superior to each." - 2007

You can read more about Integrative Thinking here:

For the Wicked and Super Wicked Problems you will be helping your clients solve, we have visualised an Integrative Thinking model that you can use to help your customers build powerful game-changing capabilities to not merely solve these problems, but actually create disruptive opportunities from these.

In Learning Nuggets 1, 2 and 3 you learned about a number of these elements.

In future Learning Nuggets we will continue to learn more about thinking models, ecosystems, business model innovation, learning cultures and outside-in mindsets.

I’m hopeful that the key takeaway for you from this Learning Nugget is that the offerings you have at your disposal are powerful capabilities, that when combined with process innovation and behavioural and cultural change have the ability to enable Systems of Intelligence that allow your clients to transform from the (potentially) disrupted to the disruptors.

But that won’t happen with old world thinking.

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