We live in an era where the truth often struggles to find its way into debates. Complex problems are often over-simplified and therefore, inadequate solutions are proposed, because they are based on an incomplete assessment of reality.
So, can a complex problem be solved with an “easy” solution? Or, in other words, can there always be a simple solution to a complex problem?
Let’s take the example of a complex problem involving an element of Document Control: a miner dies from severe electrical shock after drilling through a rock face hiding high-voltage cables.
Who is responsible? Is it:
- The Document Controller, whose database contained an outdated drawing of that part of the mine?
- The supervisor of the dead miner, who failed to check the drawings of where the accident occurred?
- The site Engineer, who knew that drawings were out of date, but who did not raise the issue?
- The Engineering Manager, who refuses to spend money on updating drawings?
- The site Manager, who overloads the daily tasks of the miners, such that they often prefer to take shortcuts to finish in time?
- The Technical Director of the mining company, who has no regards for safety?
Here is where it gets interesting: the investigators request the documentation of the area the mine where the accident took place. They realise that the electrical drawings of that area are outdated.
The investigators ask who is responsible for Documentation, and they are told that it is the Document Controller. Therefore, they decide that the Document Controller is responsible for the death of the miner and they initiate criminal prosecution.
That is a nice and simple solution. Problem solved.
Or is it?
Is it the right solution or is it an “easy” solution? Would you like to be the arrested Document Controller? Do you think that the problem is more complex than what the investigators saw and, therefore, that the answer to their investigation is more complex than it seems?
This example beautifully illustrates the danger of always seeking “easy” solutions, rather than correct solutions.