Exploring Problems that are Too Rich

These are the problems with a vast array of options and no objective criteria or standard methods to anchor the work. The need is not for expertise, but for intimacy with the present and courage to outline a new and bold future.

Solution Outline
  • An option is defined that reaches beyond the known and the given.
  • The option proposed engages and delights the relevant audiences (investors, employees, customers, stakeholders, alliance partners, etc.)
  • Most likely there will remain a residual controversy whether the vision offered is valuable or even doable.

How To Get There
  • Immerse yourself in the data, in its subtlety and nuance; this step is not analytical, but more intuitive and serendipitous.
  • bring together diverse people and ideas
  • expand your thinking and your options
  • Envision a successful outcome, a novel future
  • test most promising ideas
  • follow the energy provoked by the vision; ensure that others begin to contribute their commitment to the change work required
  • tell the story so that others can see the same future vision

Problems that are Too Rich are often avoided precisely because of their openness and ambiguity. Addressing the problem requires intimacy with substantial amounts of data, but not through detailed analysis. It is a more intuitive process of immersion, letting the data "flow over you".

Obviously the crux of exploring a Problem that is Too Rich is that magical jump from mountains of data to a crystal clear vision of a future. And the mechanisms for supporting that step are as varied as are its practitioners. Any or all of the following are some examples of how to support the magic:

  • Use a metaphor to stretch your thinking, as in "How is your situation like an aardvark?" or "If the solution were a house, what type would it be?"
  • Solicit the input of someone completely outside the situation, such as asking your child or calling your Mom.
  • Think about how to do it very badly, and use "total failure" as a way to point toward "total success"