You can help individuals or groups avoid the frequent mistake of trying to solve a problem with methods that are not adapted to the nature of their challenge. The combination of two questions makes it possible to easily sort challenges into four categories: simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic.
- A problem is simple when it can be solved reliably with practices that are easy to duplicate.
- It is complicated when experts are required to devise a sophisticated solution that will yield the desired results predictably.
- A problem is complex when there are several valid ways to proceed but outcomes are not predictable in detail.
- Chaotic is when the context is too turbulent to identify a path forward.
A loose analogy may be used to describe these differences: simple is like following a recipe, complicated like sending a rocket to the moon, complex like raising a child, and chaotic is like the game “Pin the Tail on the Donkey.”
The Liberating Structures Matching Matrix in Chapter 5 can be used as the first step to clarify the nature of a challenge and avoid the mismatches between problems and solutions that are frequently at the root of chronic, recurring problems.