Getting a grip on complex, uncertain multi actor problems.
Solving Complex Problems addresses complex multi actor systems; so called ‘spaghetti situations’ in which everything is connected to everything, and everything influences everything. Situations, for instance, in which innovative new energy technologies emerge into the existing energy system. Or new health technology, medicine, treatments or screening technologies are being developed and society has to decide about whether they should be allowed and what they may cost.
What to do about expanding international airports that have the habit of developing closely to densely populated areas? These airports are believed to contribute substantially to the economy and industrial activity in a country but also generate substantial hindrance when it comes to noise and local air quality. What to do about the multi-facetted and multi-subsystem linkages of the ICT based emergency response system in a country, where at different places decisions have to be made that may influence the safety of people substantially.
In situations such as the above, it is by far not obvious what the best solution is. All people involved have a different idea about what the solution should be. And if you ask them, all these people have different ideas about what the problem exactly is either. If you, as engineer, consultant, manager, policy maker, politician or analyst are in a situation like this, then what to do?
There are multiple ways, but one option that has proven to be very useful is the analytical, engineering like approach of analysing the problem, a methodology for making the problem explicit and rationalising the different potential solutions. In short: analytically based support of decision making, design and implementation of solutions.
Problem analysis as a course teaches such a method. It contains tools like:
Goal trees and means-end diagrams
This course introduces each technique and each technique will immediately be applied to a concrete case. Combining the application of all techniques of 5 weeks gives a coherent analysis of the problem. The course finalizes with handing in the complete analysis, as well as by making a multiple choice exam.
The course materials of this course are Copyright Delft University of Technology and are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Netherlands License.
Alexander de Haan
Alexander graduated as an aerospace engineer as well as an organizational psychologist. He holds a PhD on the analysis of sustainable aircraft technology.
He teaches part time at Delft University of Technology some courses on systematic analytical skills to getting a grip on complex situations to hundreds of students yearly, both on bachelor, master, PhD and MBA level. He works from his own company as consultant, coach, trainer and business analyst. He has written a few books, of which one is Solving Complex Problems. Currently he is co-authoring a book called Graduating Empowered and Professionally, on students showing leadership during their own graduation project.
Fieke studies Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and Management at the TPM faculty of Delft University of Technology.
She has been a member of the FSR (Faculty Student Council) with online and blended education as topic of special interest. She has been involved in the task force group ‘online examination’. Fieke has supported the process of transforming a regular version of the MOOC course into an online-blended version. She has been leading the evaluation process of that online-blended course. Currently, she is involved the set-up of the blended-online course problem analysis for the next academic year in which she will be managing the group of teaching assistants.
Elianne de Regt
Elianne studies Systems Engineering, Policy Analysis and Management at the TPM faculty of Delft University of Technology.
She has been involved in the regular courses on problem analysis as a teaching assistant for many years. Elianne also has been managing the group of teaching assistants for several years. She has been involved in the process of transforming the regular course on problem analysis into an online blended version, e.g. by writing many scripts and appearing in the videos. She co-authors (with Alexander) a book on leadership by students in their graduation process: Graduating Empowered and Professionally.
None, apart from an open mind and the desire to discover new opportunities to get a firm grip on complex situations or a case you want to analyse.