Problems that are Too Rich

Requiring artistry, vision, and courage

This category of problem is the most difficult to describe, and it was the last to appear in our research. It is almost the exact opposite of Puzzles. There are no objective criteria; the final choice will ultimately be subjective and intuitive. There are no straightforward skills; finding the solution requires vision and artistry more than expertise. And the choice made will not necessarily be compellingly obvious, even to the relevant observers, hence the need for courage.

The distinctive feature of this problem class is that there are a myriad of potential solutions. The range of choices — and the lack of clear criteria for the choice — makes this type of problem intimidating, even paralyzing.

The problem requires an eye to current reality as well as the novel potential, that is, there is often an audience that must believe it, work for it, invest in it, implement it, or buy it. While that audience may eventually determine the success of the solution, the audience is usually of little value in deciding the solution in the first place. In fact, they are sometimes a serious distraction. The proper vision for a company is not a marketing problem, even though inputs from customers can be useful. Building a graphic interface or designing a product may benefit from user input, but the artistry and imagination of the designer needs to reach beyond that data.

Examples of Problems that are Too Rich:

  • Finding a vision for the company
  • Deciding on the look and feel of a web page
  • Deciding how you want your community to look in 20 years
  • Crafting an architectural design that captures the culture of the company
  • Designing a marketing campaign

The Present
  • Vast number of options
  • Present circumstances may not be particularly bad
  • Only subjective criteria for a solution
  • There is an important audience (employees, investors, customers, alliance partners, etc.) who has to approve, but can't indicate what they'd want.

Likely Actions
  • Talk to customers
  • Diving in...stepping back
  • Strategies for creativity
  • More likely to be the work of a solitary actor rather than a group

The Future
  • To be defined by the choices we make
  • "Good solution" is a moving target

Common Typing Errors

Problems that are Too Rich are sometimes confused with Uncertainties. Both deal with a critical future state, and both seem to require attention to a range of possibilities. The difference is that in Problems that are Too Rich, the future is our choice. In an Uncertainty, the future is outside our control, but no less critical in the choices made today. If I had a crystal ball and could look into the future, an Uncertainty would fade away; in a Problem that is Too Rich, the crystal ball would just be a mirror.

< Copyright 2003 by Jerry L. Talley [ Home Page ]