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How well do you solve complex and ambiguous problems?

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: How well do you solve complex and ambiguous problems?

  • Very well — I’m a great problem solver: 49.9%
  • Well — it takes a lot of effort though: 42.39%
  • Not well — I could be much better at it: 7.1%
  • Poorly — I have trouble with ambiguity and complexity: 0.61%

Ambiguity is challenging. Half of you put substantial effort into solving complex and ambiguous problems. The typical reason big, ambiguous problems are challenging is because we try to tackle the entire problem at once. In doing so, we often chase many low impact ideas or worse, we miss the true root issue. The easiest way to solve those complex, big problems is to turn them into smaller ones. In breaking the problem down, the true causes become clearer and you can focus on big impact solutions while ignoring smaller ideas.

Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS and author of “One Piece of Paper: The Simple Approach to Powerful, Personal Leadership.”