A guide for shifting thoughts on problem-solving and approaching design, innovation, and change through a complexity lens – By Design & Critical Thinking.

Presentation given to the Systems Innovation Geneva Hub

Sailing Complexity: The Explorer’s Metaphor

An introduction to sensemaking and complexity management for designers, managers, and decision-makers.

An invitation to be explorers, not just problem-solvers

We tend to see design and innovation as problem-solving spaces. This engineering and sometimes mechanistic approach is not bad in itself but brings a lot of limitations, one major being to quickly frame whatever challenge into a narrow, finite, solution.

When facing uncertainty, designers, innovators, and changemakers might feel unempowered. We look for recipes and pre-packaged generalist solutions — “the answer”, that sells an illusion of certainty through the economy of speed — to help us disambiguate our very specific contexts.

Problem-solvers look for answers. Explorers look for better questions.

Instead, exploration makes the invisible visible. This multi-layered understanding will add more potential to our portfolio of possibilities.

Problem-solvers reduce options. Explorers enable possibilities.

New challenges are invitations to become curious explorers, in a world where everything is believed to be known, predictable, and ordinary.

Reclaim a space for curious exploration

The explorer’s framework is a set of ideas & concepts for practitioners to help approach challenges and problems in ways that add layers (rather than subtract), enable possibilities (rather than reduce), diversify points of views, and enable a portfolio of strategies & actions to tackle (complex) challenges (rather than single-point solutions).

Exploration is not to be opposed to conception — it is a useful tension. Exploration should be pursued as a parallel ongoing journey with no clear end. It is the philosophy & ethics of the curious humble learner.

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