Organizations with explicit strategies for problem solving secure a competitive advantage that can be maintained long term.
Business, at its heart, is about solving problems.
Problem solving is performed both explicitly by analysts and computers and implicitly by the organization as a whole. And the design of an organization—its structure, processes, communication policies, incentives, training, and talent management—shapes the way it approaches and solves problems.
Many companies, however, lack explicit strategies for problem solving. And with the rapid growth of data volume, interconnectedness, and speed of change, such strategies will give companies the stable footing they’ll need to stay in the game—and win.
Ingenious enterprises will gain an increasingly powerful competitive advantage over their competitors as complexity in the business landscape continues to rise. Managers who want their company to join the ranks of these organizations should do the following:
Focus on high-value problems with fast-rising complexity. Do not oversimplify problems but take a broad view—beyond industry—and identify the problems’ underlying structure.
Gauge where your company stands when compared with its key competitors according to cost, speed, and accuracy of problem solving. Find out how companies in other industries have solved problems similar to yours.
Create a toolbox of techniques for problem solving. Embrace both explicit algorithms and implicit organizational techniques. Develop a framework that specifies when each technique should be used and deploy it in the organization.
Reengineer your systems to reward creativity in problem framing and solving. Make problem solving a key criterion in talent management.
Measure the results of your problem solving on an ongoing basis. Try out new methods, uses of data, and framing techniques. Vary the composition and structure of problem-solving teams and external partners.