Martin Reeves and Jussi Lehtinen

The effectiveness of a company’s problem solving, as measured along the dimensions of cost, speed, and accuracy, is influenced by five elements: strategy (that is, the core of the company’s problem-solving approach, which drives decisions about the other elements), framing, data selection, choice and implementation of a solution method, and selection of problem solvers. Classical enterprises typically lack a strategy for problem solving. They try to frame problems as simply as possible, to employ limited amounts of data and a limited repertoire of approaches, to aim for exact solutions, and to keep the effort entirely in-house. Ingenious enterprises approach problems very differently. They develop explicit problem-solving strategies that take into account the types of problems encountered. They frame each problem in a way that allows it to be solved optimally. They employ large volumes of data, if necessary; vary the problem-solving methods based on the complexity of the problems at hand, using artful approximations as needed; and turn to social networks and other open-problem-solving approaches when doing so is beneficial.

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