Want to solve complex business problems? Try going slow

Natasha Stronach
Solution Designer, U-Collaborate
KPMG Innovate

Like any good news article, the headline above got your attention didn’t it? You want to understand how to solve complex business problems? More about that later….

KPMG Melbourne recently moved into its new building in Collins Square Docklands. Our #kpmgnewdigs are full of facilities that make our client interactions more meaningful and our employment experience more relevant. One is some seriously cool and functional end of trip facilities.  As an avid bike commuter, I was excited to commute to work. But first, I needed to alter my route.

Altering my route was manageable – maybe because I took my planning approach. “Just do it!” But I was in for a surprise no Google Map could assist me with. If St Kilda Road was difficult to navigate to the old office, I had my work cut out for me with the new route down Southbank Promenade.

Imagine no bike lanes, thousands of pedestrians coming in and out of restaurants, rowing clubs carrying their boats to the water, bike riders who are in a hurry to make their PB, and helicopters! Yes, I said helicopters. My first week of commuting to Docklands was well, frustrating. I was constantly speeding up to avoid pedestrians only to zip past one and slam on the brakes for the next. I also struggled to find my route amongst a sea of other speedy cyclists. And my trip time was nearly double what Google suggested! I am sure this all sounds rather #firstworldproblems, but honestly after a few near crashes I had scared myself enough to decide my approach was not working.

My commute was starting to reflect the modern and complex business problem my clients are trying to solve every day: multiple stakeholders, constant disruption and acceleration. I must admit, I found it disheartening and thought about pulling my old travel card out of retirement. But I still had to get myself and my bike home from the office that night…

Before my dreaded commute that day, I had a client meeting where my team mate and I were kicking off a U-Collaborate engagement. For those of you who aren’t familiar with U-Collaborate, we help our clients solve various complex business problems by using design thinking. We construct a specialised workshop environment to harness the knowledge within organisations to source practical solutions in an accelerated way.

In the lead up to a U-Collaborate workshop, our process is iterative and we purposefully slow clients down.

This is frustrating for some clients, as they see a need for change and want to move into “solution mode” fast. We always reassure everyone there is a reason we ask them to slow down. Slowing down allows you to observe the situation in detail. This helps you to gain insight and you may not have had to listen and absorb different points of view. You then come at the problem from multiple perspectives and develop new and better solutions. By doing the above, you gain alignment and can move forward FAST.

After spending an hour encouraging my client to slow down, I thought I should take my own advice and slow down on my commute home. LITERALLY. I rode the entire way at a leisurely speed. Suddenly, I was able to observe much more of my landscape. I was able to observe and respond to unexpected disruption, like a pedestrian stepping out in front of me with headphones on. It made me more agile, when facing the sudden influx of 30 school kids holding hands that I could bypass safely and quickly. I found my cycle “flow” by following the cyclist pack. I was able to give a warning when unexpected events happened – a bicycle bell isn’t helpful once you have run into someone. More importantly it enabled me to be empathic to individual perspectives. The viewpoint of the old lady or young mother who just had the shock of their life when they were nearly knocked over by a speedy cyclist. And to sum it all up, I achieved my goal – I got home, FAST.

As promised, want to know how to solve complex business problems? SLOW DOWN so you can speed up.

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