The problems we’re facing often seem as complex as they do intractable. And as Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” So what does it take to increase the complexity of our thinking?
Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, outlines the steps his team takes to tackle difficult and complex questions. As auditors, we are sometimes tasked with examining gnarly, high-stakes problems that have no apparent and straightforward solutions. This requires that we cultivate the kind of thinking that allows us to approach the problem from more than one angle.
Simple answers make us feel safer, especially in disruptive and tumultuous times. But rather than certainty, modern leaders need to consciously cultivate the capacity to see more — to deepen, widen, and lengthen their perspectives. Deepening depends on our willingness to challenge our blind spots, deeply held assumptions, and fixed beliefs. Widening means taking into account more perspectives — and stakeholders — in order to address any given problem from multiple vantage points. Lengthening requires focusing on not just the immediate consequences of a decision but also its likely impact over time.