In research and in management, we are solving problems. As we know, not all problems are created equal. There are many different approaches to many different problems. A fascinating method for thinking about problem-solving is the Cynefin Sense-Making Framework developed by Professor David Snowden.
This framework divides problems into two broad categories: ordered and unordered. The ordered category is further divided into Simple and Complicated problems. Unordered is divided into Complex and Chaotic.
- Simple problems are cause and effect related and generally have direct solutions.
- Complicated problems exist in a complex environment where the actual solution is not obvious and requires an expert to discipher and solve.
- Complex problems exist in a constantly changing environment where cause and effect are impossible to determine.
- Chaotic problems are those that happen rapidly denying decision makers time to analyze and evaluate.
Deloitte applied this Framework to the problem of Mine Safey in South Africa. The resulting report is a wonderful explanation of the Framework as well as a case study in its application. You can find the report at: http://www.narrativelab.co.za/files/Deloitte%20PoV%20on%20Mine%20Safety%20Feb09.pdf.