Quantum Problems, from Alpheus Bingham

Wicked Problems - colored gasAt Converge, we conceive of a quantum problem as a collection of wicked problems. Climate change is a mash up of all sorts of wicked problems, social environmental, even neurological. Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, explores these dynamics brilliantly.

We’re big fans of Rotman Magazine around here, and were very impressed by a recent interview with Dr. Alpheus Bingham, the founder of InnoCentive, about the power of open innovation in addressing wicked problems, challenges the military dubbed VUCA: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. Here’s what we learned.

“InnoCentive has embraced an approach called Challenge Driven Innovation. Please explain how it works.

Most of the problems we work on are ‘wicked problems’. Challenge Driven Innovation (CDI) essentially recognizes that big, complex problems are really collections of lots of little problems. Once a problem is broken down, each smaller problem gets written up as a semi-autonomous, stand alone challenge. At this point, each problem is ‘portable’ a module, and as solutions to the various modules are found, you assemble them as part of the solution to your bigger problem.

Talk a little bit about the importance of diversity of thought for solving wicked problems.

People start out with different assumptions so they ‘hop onto’ the rocky problem solving surface a different locations. Some of them might land near a ‘peak’, others in a ‘deep valley’, but they all begin navigating around the area they jumped in at. If you look at the results of that collective effort, each ‘hopper’ is actually mapping a different region of the landscape. We’ve done this 2000+ times, and we have found that by injecting diversity into the equation, we get to solutions that are not at all in line with the way things have been done before. Continue reading

The 3 Core Capabilities of System Leaders, from Senge, Hamilton & Kania

Winter_2015_GP

This post is a part of our Think Piece series, in which we synthesize and share the most insightful concepts from our favorite books, articles & thought leaders. The following has been adapted from the writings of Peter Senge, Hal Hamilton and John Kania, The Dawn of System Leadership, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2015. 

“The good leader is he whom the people revere. The great leader is he of whom the people say, “We did it ourselves.” – Lao Tzu

We face a host of systemic challenges beyond the reach of existing institutions and their hierarchical authority structures. Problems like climate change, destruction of ecosystems, growing scarcity of water, youth unemployment, and embedded poverty and inequity require unprecedented collaboration among different organizations, sectors, and even countries.

The deep changes necessary to accelerate progress against society’s most intractable problems require a unique type of leader – the system leader, a person who catalyzes collective leadership.

Systems leaders develop the ability to see reality through the eyes of people very different from themselves, encouraging others to be more open as well. They re-contextualize organizational self-interest, as people discover that their and their organization’s success depends on creating well-being within the larger systems of which they are a part.

Transforming systems is ultimately about transforming relationships among people who shape those systems. Therefore, effective systems leaders work to build relationships based on deep listening, allowing networks of trust and collaboration to flourish.

There are three core capabilities that system leaders develop in order to foster collective leadership.

  1. See the larger system In any complex setting, people typically focus their attention on the parts of the system most visible from their own vantage point. This usually results in arguments about who has the right perspective on the problem. Getting the right people in the room and helping them see the larger system is essential to building a shared understanding of complex problems. This understanding enables collaborating organizations to jointly develop solutions not evident to any of them individually and to work together for the health of the whole system rather than just pursue symptomatic fixes to individual pieces.
  1. Foster reflection and generative conversations – Continue reading

Effective Platforms for Cross-Sector Cooperation , from Otto Scharmer & Katrin Kaufer

This post is a part of our series of Book Summaries, in which we synthesize and share the most insightful concepts from our favorite books. The following has been modified from Otto Scharmer and Katrin Kaufer’s Leading from the Emerging Future, 2013. During a recent Irvine Foundation New Leadership Network convening, David Sawyer read the first two paragraphs from this piece to frame the conversation each morning. 

817N0kBysNL._SL1500_The most significant change at the beginning of this century has been the creation of platforms for cross-sector cooperation that enable change-makers to gather, become aware of, and understand the evolution of the whole system, and consequently to act, build and test prototypes that originate from that shared awareness. And the most important ingredient is always the same: a few fully committed people who would give everything to make it work.

If we want to upgrade our community operating system, we need to start by updating the thinking and awareness that underlies it – the quality of results produced by any system (and any community) depends on the quality of awareness from which people in the system operate. The main leverage you have is the quality of your relationship with the other stakeholders.

And how can we develop the level of awareness and shared understanding that leads to positive outcomes? Continue reading