Anna Koeferl
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After watching this Ted Talk, we got a bit inspired to talk you through complex problem solving for your brand.

Got a complex problem you need to sort through? Try embracing visual problem solving.

Visual problem solving isn’t just about drawing. It’s about changing the perspective in how we communicate an idea. When we analyze a system visually, we intuitively break down our understanding of how the system works. This is a great practice for those looking to incorporate new engaging exercises into their meetings or to test out different approaches of solving complex problems.

Start Simple

Before diving into the far reaches of systems thinking, let us consider a simple process that anyone can illustrate – making toast. Yes, indeed, explaining to someone how to make toast is easy. However, drawing out the steps needed to complete this task requires you to think differently in order to condense the toast-making process into the most important, distinguishable steps. Tom Wujec, the speaker in the TED talk shown above, asked thousands of people to map out a system for making toast. He found that breaking the process down into drawings made people think more deliberately about how it worked. Further, having movable sticky notes or cards led to creating better, more concise systems. The cards were moved around like puzzle pieces, which facilitated more reflection and reiteration of the process, leading to a variety of solutions. Queue sticky notes!

Links and Nodes

A noticeable pattern between all the toast-making systems can be seen in the nodes and links that illustrate the interactions between each step. This ultimately shows that we know how to break down complex problems into simple steps. Approximately, 5-13 nodes in a drawing make something easy to understand. While less than five is not enough information, more than 13 is overwhelming for the viewer. People used different approaches for understanding this system on paper. Working within a group helps to incorporate a variety of viewpoints and increases the possibility for solutions that consider the whole system.

Finding Clarity

Complex problems don’t need to be overwhelming. This method is shown to establish some clarity in organizations, where conversations surrounding the drawings are shown to be just as valuable as the drawings themselves. Reiterating, reflecting and considering the whole system as defined by working parts of a whole can offer a fuller understanding of systems and the problems within them.  

Common Problems

Questions that can help you evaluate certain systems within your organization:

How do we manage long-term sustainability for our company/business?

How do we evaluate our customer experience?

What is our organizational vision?

How will we attract more customers?

How will we make our customers/clients feel great?

How will we help our employees thrive?

How will we measure our organization’s effectiveness?

Where are we creating value in our current business process?

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So, go tackle your problem! And make some toast while you’re at it. Neither are that difficult. #visualproblemsolving #breadandbutter

Let us know what you think of visual problem solving (or your picture of toast) by tweeting us @DEVENEYMKTG. We’d love to hear from you!



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