The Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just About Anything Fast

The Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just About Anything Fast

In 2001, we were introduced to a motley crew of pure academics and business professionals. They had found each other and stayed connected around one shared interest—the genius of complexity pioneer Stafford Beer and his efforts to turn his insights into something usable. They all wanted to save the world.

Each of us had been involved in various businesses, including jobs at large multinationals, stints with consulting firms, and leadership roles in dotcom-boom start-ups. Now we entered a world of stark-looking, long-bearded scientists whose writings were totally inaccessible to mere mortals, almost written in code, using what seemed to be a secret lexicon. After we understood the true meaning of what we were hearing, we were electrified at the prospect of applying what we learned to a broad range of situations; we realized it could solve for complexity in ways that could produce quantum leaps in performance and growth for organizations and individuals.

Like most start-ups with a minimum viable product, we had our fair share of starts and stops, long sales cycles, and existential crises. Road trips, forgettable hotels, poor diets, long visionary conversations, early adopters, huge fans, big detractors. All the while developing and applying an evolving Formula that just flat-out worked.

And then, timing and luck kicked in.

Complexity as an organizational topic had been around forever and had attracted the attention of brilliant academics and others for several decades. Toward the end of this century’s first decade, however, business and government leaders became serious about complexity and it entered their collective consciousness.

Fast-forward. When organizations are facing central, confusing, multidimensional challenges and opportunities, they apply the Formula. More specifically:

  • When a merger is going south
  • When a reorganization has taken place and the company wants to invent its new strategic planning process
  • When a company wants to double its business in China
  • When they want to take out cost without undermining the consumer experience
  • When a business unit needs to be turned around
  • When a conglomerate wants to digitize
  • When an organization wants to bring a new way of fighting cancer
    to market

For many years now, we’ve worked closely with the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, policymakers, global product leaders, government officials, and the heads of global associations. Each of them has made a deliberate decision to use an unconventional, unfamiliar approach to achieving results faster; they’ve applied it to their top challenges; the stakes involved have always been high; the first time they’ve advocated using the approach has always met with resistance; and the outcomes, both immediate and long-term, have been considered unprecedented.

What is also true across each of these situations is that the leaders using our approach know that we are not experts in their business, industry, or sector. Until they experienced the Formula firsthand, they had only a surface-level, abstract understanding of how it works and how it would work for them. They recognized in the moment that the challenge at hand was in a league of its own, that the usual ways of addressing it would likely fail or take far too long, and that they needed to try something different.

Cracking Complexity is about engineering serendipity in the face of complexity. It’s about engineering collisions and “controlled explosions” that release massive amounts of directed human energy that had been previously untapped. Humankind has mastered the effective use of controlled explosions in many technical endeavors from automobiles to rockets. These have advanced our societies in leaps forward, all in a very short time. The leaders we’ve worked with have learned that controlled explosions of brainpower and emotional commitment in large, special-purpose groups, have the same basic outcome: major leaps of progress in compressed time frames.

The Formula that we present in our book, Cracking Complexity, is based on a blend of many scientific and sociological breakthroughs and is itself a well-tested marvel. That means it yields the same outcomes every time the necessary conditions for success are established and maintained for the duration of its application. The outcomes are:

  • Full clarity in the face of prior confusion
  • Novel, achievable solutions and plans
  • Widespread buy-in, alignment, adoption, commitment, and
    mobilization

All in mere days.

When people collide in the right way, great things happen. And the
experience is a deliberate, necessary, and inevitable mix of lows and highs,
friction and concordance, divergence and convergence, serious doubt and
frustration, before getting to glimmers of hope and eventual satisfaction
and, often, elation.

Having brought this to market and scaled it in all manner of organizations, we know the Formula’s promise can still smack of fantasy to those who have not applied it, so much so that we can understand the inclination to chalk it up as just that—fantasy and empty promises.

But there’s a simple reason why so many top organizations use the Formula: It works on complexity better than anything else out there.

Organizations bring us in recognizing that we’re not experts in their industry. They know, however, that we have mastered the Complexity Formula, and it’s the outcomes from that Formula they want and fast.

If you’re a CEO or senior leader of any kind of organization, you’ll want to read this book, understand the principles it contains, and know that it holds step-by-step instructions on how to tackle everyday complexities and the seemingly intractable challenges that you’ve been banging your head against for months.

If you’re a manager in any function related to or mired in complex challenges, you’ll be able to use this book not just to understand what you’re facing but to apply its lessons to solve the problems that bedevil you and capitalize on the opportunities that excite you. The Complexity Formula is a machine that just works. It has been engineered for our era of unrelenting opportunity and represents the best way to institutionalize the capability to crack complexity. And now we pass it to you so that you can do so.

Excerpted from Cracking Complexity: The Breakthrough Formula for Solving Just About Anything Fast. Copyright © 2019 by David Komolos and David Benjamin. Published by Nicholas Brealey.


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