Wednesday, October 15, 2008

[Long Range Thinking] Problems where the future is unfamiliar

From 'Solving Tough Problems', by Adam Kahane:
... problems are tough because they are complex, and there are three types of complexity: dynamic, generative, and social.

A problem has low generative complexity if its future is familiar and predictable.

In a traditional village, for example, the future simply replays the past, and so solutions and rules from the past will work in the future.

A problem has high generative complexity if its future is unfamiliar and unpredictable. South Africa in the early 1990s, for example, was moving away from the peculiar rigidities of apartheid and into a new, post-Cold War, rapidly globalising and digitising world.

Solutions to problems of high generative complexity cannot be calculated in advance, on paper, based on what has worked in the past, but have to be worked out as the situation unfolds.
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