Solving complex problems

I’m starting a new chapter today on solving complex problems and how you can’t expect to solve them with just a meeting:

There are a lot of complex problems that we need to solve. Wicked problems are another name for this type of problems and what is so wicked about the is that we usually don’t know what the problem is that we are trying to solve. And while we try to address the problem the problem in itself will change, and we need to adapt to the changing problem and solve that instead. It means that you will not be able just to sit and analyze the problem and think that you can come up with a perfect plan for the problem. You can’t go the opposite way either and just run blindly around and try to solve the problem. You need to find a balance between analyzing and experimenting so that you at the same time create a clearer idea of what the problem is and a solution.

Most problems that involve people are complex because it is very hard to know how people will react to any change and you need to test it out to see what happens. This complexity is best understood if you think about the number of relationships people need to handle in groups: If you are only two people then it is one relationship, three people need to take into account three relationships, and four people six links. The number of relationships will quickly reach the limit of what we can handle, and Dunbar’s research⁠1 says that limit is 150 people.

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1 Neocortex size as a constraint on group size in primates, R.I.M. Dunbar, Journal of Human Evolution, 1992