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Leadership Problem Solving Creates More Problems than it Solves. The Ambiguity Advantage David Wilkinson Centre i RAF Leadership Conference 2007 Centre.

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Presentation on theme: "Leadership Problem Solving Creates More Problems than it Solves. The Ambiguity Advantage David Wilkinson Centre i RAF Leadership Conference 2007 Centre."— Presentation transcript:

1 Leadership Problem Solving Creates More Problems than it Solves. The Ambiguity Advantage David Wilkinson Centre i RAF Leadership Conference 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 1

2 The Book 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 2

3 Ambiguous Decisions A look at problem solving success in ambiguous situations 161 Leaders in 42 organisations 2001 – 2007 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 3

4 Ambiguity 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 4 Ambiguity ChaosUncertainComplexityVagueRisk Where the problem or solution or path is not known

5 Leader’s Problem Solving 161 Leaders ManagersPeers Direct Reports Team Members 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 5 42 organisations between 2001 – 2007 Wilkinson 2007

6 Leaders Views 96.2% (155 of 161) of leaders said that their problem solving was successful. Any failures they said, came from somewhere or someone else. 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 6

7 Every one else’s view 81% of leader problem solving failed / got ditched… or result in unintended consequences so severe that they were worse or as worse as the original problem. 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 7

8 8 out of 10 cats 8 out of 10 leadership decisions / solutions didn’t resolve the issue* Less than 4% of leaders considered that their thinking and actions contributed to the failure situation 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 8

9 Why? 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 9

10 Two Faced 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 10

11 Processing Cognition Senses Outside world 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 11

12 The Ambiguity Pretzel 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 12 Certainty / minimum ambiguity Chaos Increasing ambiguity / risk & uncertainty Risk Increasing certainty / clarity / knowledge & order Vagueness Uncertainty & Vagueness Breakdown of relationship > Cause & Effect Close coupled C & E Loose coupled C & E Total Ambiguity Paradox The Paradox of Certainty Control models Emergent / complexity models

13 Abmgiiuty and our brinas I tihnk taht you shulod be albe raed tihs wihuott too mcuh trubole. It is vrey stnarge taht wehn you trun aournd the cneter letetrs of wrods you can stlil raed tehm eailsy. Amgiibuty gtes caclenled out by the biran wehn it is clsoe to a reiltay we unredtsnad. Tihs can be a prbolem as wlel as a uesufl phnemonena. Waht haepnps is taht our biran makes, waht is knwon as ‘brdignig inrefneecs’, It lokos for paetrtns and tehn tires to mkae sesne of waht it fidns bsaed on waht we alerady konw. Hoewveer it can go worgng! Esepiclaly in totlaly new siuttaoins. The biran wlil try to imopse a ptaetrn whcih is eihter sipmly oudttaed or jsut plian wrnog. 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 13

14 Rty siht…. I kihtn hatt shti udlosh eb a elltit erdarh ot edra sa I avhe exdim het teterls pu orme hhciw sakem ti a tol daherr ot erda. Hawt hist emns si hatt mose eoppel illw eigv pu ude ot eht velle fo itimagyub ti treacse ofr emth. Dod s’itn ti ? 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 14

15 Psychological Inertia Aka paradigm paralysis 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 15

16 Paradigm Paralysis The fog of war lessons learnt by Robert S. McNamara 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 16

17 Modes of Leadership 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 17 Mode One Technical Leadership Mode Two Cooperative Leadership Mode Three Collaborative Leadership Mode Four Generative Leadership

18 Technical Leadership (Mode 1) Good at – Following ‘characterised’ procedures – Making incremental changes – Postponing reward – Staying safe – Standardising procedures – Leading from the front – Detail Struggles with – Risk & Ambiguity – Innovation – Diversity – Non standard thinking – Empathy and emotional intelligence – Co-operation and collaboration – Strategic concepts (big picture) 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 18

19 Mode 1 responses to Ambiguity 1.There is only one certainty 1.Be certain about your certainty 2.Do something else 1.Displacement behaviour 2.Flight behaviour 3.If in doubt fool yourself 1.Denial 2.Create a new certainty 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 19

20 Cooperative Leadership (Mode 2) Good at – Minimising risks – Using others as resources – Team focus – Solving cooperative problems – Democracy – Listening – Task Focus – Diversity Struggles with – Taking risks – Conflict – Weighing up the facts – Competing values and ideas – High innovation – Lack of change – Too much change 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 20

21 Mode 2 responses to ambiguity Heightened awareness of negative emotional reactions to ambiguity Moves to reduce discomfort Conflict = discomfort Tries to reduce ambiguity and conflict by – Simplification – Appeals to cohesion and loyalty (the team) – Cooperative strategies – Behavioural frameworks etc. that promote compliance Creation of rules / policy – reduction of uncertainty 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 21

22 Collaborative Leadership (Mode 3) Good at – Aligning values – Equality – Meetings – Relationships – Feel good – Empathy – Emotional Intelligence – Consensus – Exploring risk – Greater levels of ambiguity Struggles with – Leadership – Lack of productivity – Difficult people Individualists – Breaking out of COWDUNG – Lack of change – Non conventional thinking at first 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 22

23 Mode 3 reactions to ambiguity Recognise the ambiguity Adapt to the situation Interest in change (of others) Will seek recourse to the consensus of the group/team Will try to ‘solve’ ambiguity to restore the natural order of things 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 23

24 Generative Leadership (Mode 4) Good at – Working with Ambiguity – Complexity – Finding opportunity – Agility and change – Speed – Innovation – Focus – Using experts – Defining problems – Emotional Resilience – Learning and unlearning – shifting paradigm Struggles with – Working with certainty – Lack of change & stability – People who need time To understand Change Produce things – Procedures, policy and rules – Incremental change – Lack of speed and agility – ‘Small talk’ 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 24

25 Mode 4 reactions to ambiguity Very happy with the existence of ambiguity – worries if it’s not present Looks for emergent properties and opportunities inherent in situation Spends lots of time on problem definition and trying to discover reality Uses diversity of thinking and approaches to gain the advantage 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 25

26 A problem of definition The elevators are too slow 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 26

27 Frame 1 Technical - Make it faster 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 27

28 Frame 2 Co-operate – what solutions? Best – pulley gearing 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 28

29 Frame 3 Collaboration – many Project teams many inventions 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 29

30 Frame 4 Most people spend 90% of effort working on solution Generative spend 20% of effort working on solution. 80% on the problem definition 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 30

31 Albert Einstein “It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer” “I spend most of my time just trying to find out what the problem is.” 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 31

32 Problem definition The elevators are too slow They say that the elevators are too slow They say think that the elevators are too slow 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 32

33 They think the lift is too slow 1.Install mirrors - $38 2.Level progress indication 3.Bigger compartments 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 33

34 Frames 1.Thinking frame = how we see 2.How we see = what we see 3.What we see = the problems we perceive 4.The problems we perceive = the problem we solve Frame Vision Reality Proble m Solution 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 34

35 inspire@centrei.org inspire@centrei.org www.centrei.org David Wilkinson Centre I 2007 Centre i inspire innovate  influence 35


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