Solve Complex Problems by Expanding Your Thinking
Many institutions of higher learning teach students using approaches that encourage surface learning at best. They skip from topic to topic with an emphasis on knowledge acquisition, without making a student dig deep to learn skills, abilities and behaviors associated with the topic.
Too many leaders approach complex problems with either-or thinking: The answer is right or wrong, good or bad, win or lose. To cultivate a nuanced perspective, challenge your understanding of the problem. Ask yourself, “What am I not seeing here?” and “What else might be true?” Don’t seek out answers that just confirm what you already know. It’s also helpful to tackle this kind of challenge first thing in the morning, when your mind is fresh. Spend at least an hour on it without interruption. The dedicated time ensures that you give a complex issue the attention it needs — attention that might otherwise be consumed by less intellectually demanding tasks. And as you work, pay attention to how you’re feeling. Embracing complexity is an emotional challenge in addition to a cognitive one. You’ll need to manage tough emotions like fear and anger and get yourself out of flight-or-fight mode so that you can think more expansively.
Adapted from “What It Takes to Think Deeply About Complex Problems,” by Tony Schwartz