People at the top of organisations can drive themselves and whole cultures to anxiety, stress and overwork; seeking answers to problems which just may not have one.

In computation there are many ‘undecidable problems’ where any possible computer program may give the wrong answer, or could run forever without giving any answer at all.

A ‘halting problem’, for example, is one where you’ll never know if the program would end. Some of the questions which get asked in the workplace are like these – decidedly undecidable.

Basically many are ‘complex problems’ to which there are no simple answers – they are to do with whole systems, cultures and people. So seeking an ‘answer’ would take an eternity (and a mountain of work) and continuing to relentlessly pursue an ‘answer’ misses the point and usually makes the situation worse.

For ‘complicated problems’ computer science advocates ‘Optimal Stopping’; in essence stopping the analysis early enough to get a resource efficient, computationally efficient, ‘good enough’ answer. But for ‘complex’ ones it’s about talking and listening and finding some common ground on what some improvement would like.

For the Specialist-Generalist that means stop thinking and ‘sweating’ a problem; start talking and listening instead…

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