Tom Wujec’s 8-Step Exercise to Complex Problem-Solving

Productive entrepreneurs

Running a business that aims to solve an important problem, which your target group of customers faces, will make your product not just nice to have, but will turn it into a must-have. Customers look for value and this is what you as an entrepreneur should give them.

The development of such a valuable product goes through many trial-error stages. The startup teams work hard in order to perfect the product and make it a perfect market fit. Through collaboration, however, the teams often manage to find better, faster, and more effective ways to deal with any complex problem that gets on their way.

Let’s Start With a Simple Question: How Do You Make Toast?

There are many ways to approach a problem, yet many of them seem too complicated to comprehend and too difficult to actually put in practice. The designer Tom Wujec, who is known for his work on using design and technology to help groups solve problems and understand ideas, gives us a simple alternative approach that can help us learn how to solve complex problems more effectively.

In a Ted Talk, he explains how a simple design exercise can help a company’s team to collaborate more effectively and come up with solutions and strategies when it comes to strategic positioning, cash flow, manufacturing processes, opportunity cost, service innovation and so on. In fact, more and more organizations begin to address their problems by collaboratively drawing them like it is presented in Wujec’s 8-step complex problem-solving exercise.


How does the complex problem-solving exercise work?

On Tom Wujec’s website drowtoast.com are outlined the 8 steps of the exercise, which are as follows:

Step 1 – Get ready by arranging all supplies that you need – from markers through sticky notes to index cards. And, of course, pick the right room for it – make sure you have enough space.

Step 2 – Send invitations to the team members you will do the exercise with. Make sure that you make your invitation clear – they need to know what they are going to be a part of.

Step 3 – Conduct the meeting and ask the people to begin with the simplest exercise – to draw the process of making a toast.

Step 4 – Once they are ready, let them show the drawings to each other. Discuss what you see on each and every one.

Step 5 – Get clarity by watching the TED Talk (The one above)

Step 6 – Ask all the participants now to create a drawing that tackles the company’s challenge.

Step 7 – Share all the drawings once again.

Step 8 – Ask the group this time around to collaborate by using sticky notes and drawn links. Let the people work in groups of 4 to 6 people, who use diagrams and systems in order to find solutions to a problem.

It is quite simple – you begin with the question, collect the nodes, refine the nodes, repeat refining until the patterns begin to emerge and the team gets clarity. In the end, it is all about visualizing and refining until the outcomes are satisfying.

Try this exercise with your team the next time you need to solve an important problem and share with us the outcome in the comment section below!

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