Becoming better strategic thinkers
Arnaud Chevallier has an interesting post at Oxford University Press. If the post interests you, I highly recommend Edward De Bono’s books. Chevallier writes:
A manager at a hotel receives an alarming number of complaints from her guests that they have to wait too long for elevators. So she requests quotes for installing an additional elevator. Turned down by the price tag of that solution, the manager seeks an alternative and decides to give her guests something to do while they wait for the elevator, by installing mirrors or televisions or providing magazines. The price tag of that solution is a lot lower and, upon implementing it, the complaints stop.
So what? Well, sometimes, the obvious solution to a problem isn’t the best, and there is value in searching for alternatives. Also, this search for alternatives might require us to think outside of our disciplines: slow elevators can be fixed with an engineering solution. It can also be fixed with behavioral solution.
People born between 1957 and 1964 averaged 12 jobs during their career, and there are no signs that this trend is going to slow down. How do we prepare—both ourselves and the next generation—for this need for constantly reinventing ourselves and adapting to ever-fast change?
Here’s an answer: develop a skill set that enables us to make sense of new and complex situations. When confronted to a complex problem, we should be comfortable identifying what the actual problem is, understanding why we are facing it, identifying potential solutions, and implementing whichever solution we think is best. We need to complement our specialist skills with generalists ones and actively work on becoming better strategic thinkers.
Complementing specialist skills to become “T-shaped”
In our personal and professional lives, we all solve problems daily. Training our students to be skilled problem solvers is also an essential part of what we do as educators. And this might start by recognizing that, beyond their apparent differences, many of the complex problems we face share some common denominators.
Some people, usually specialists in their discipline, are quick to minimize the importance of common denominators and that, therefore, we shouldn’t waste our time developing an approach that is so generic that it doesn’t really bring any value.
Of course, there are obvious differences between, for example, medicine and the military, and those call for specialized training. But there are also similarities. Indeed, problem solving in medicine can be the same as in the military. Such an instance is . . .