My professional work has never just been a “job.” It’s my launching pad for transforming the world around me.

During my 20s, while working as a journalist, I tried to break down, simplify, and explain complex and interconnected local, state, and national political issues.

As a United Methodist pastor in my early-to-mid-30s, I encouraged people to transform their lives—and, ultimately, change many of their embedded behaviors—through the prism of a specific set of spiritual teachings.

Across two years as a financial advisor with Morgan Stanley, during my mid-to-late 30s, I aimed to influence clients to “think beyond the immediate” and implement long-term investment planning for a more secure financial future.

And for just under 20 years, as a human resources professional, I leveraged coaching, consulting, speaking, and writing with the goal of transforming leaders and organizational cultures.

Mathematician and designer Horst Rittel coined the term “wicked problem” to describe a situation that lacks a “final” solution and necessitates less of a scientific approach than creative strategies in the context of embracing ambiguity. Rittel asserted that wicked problems bear incomplete or inconsistent knowledge; involve large numbers of people and viewpoints; present specific and significant economic burdens; and not only interconnect with other problems but are often symptoms of other problems.

“Complex and nuanced”

I’m encouraged that Rittel didn’t just throw up his hands and declare that wicked problems aren’t worth solving. In fact, they are the ones most worth addressing.

Furthermore, Rittel contended that the field of design thinking’s methodical, collaborative approach could unleash collective creativity and innovative ideas through bringing together people of different backgrounds, skills, and experiences.

I prefer to use the phrase “complex and nuanced” regarding the kinds of problems I’m exploring as a professional coach who uses design thinking in his practice. A couple of definitions:

Complex = consisting of many different and connected parts.

Nuanced = characterized by subtle shades of meaning or expression.

Rittel asserted that these sort of problems bear incomplete or inconsistent knowledge; involve large numbers of people and viewpoints; present specific and significant economic burdens; and not only interconnect with other problems but are often symptoms of other problems. Furthermore, Rittel believed that “design thinking” was one of the more effective ways to tackle such problems.

I define a “complex, nuanced problem” as one consisting of many interrelated parts, various shades of expression, and no comprehensive solution. These are simultaneously the most difficult problems to solve and the ones most worth solving.

Everyone will have their own list of such problems that are top of mind. I especially focus on these seven.

Let’s connect

I’m an ICF and Hogan certified coach, equipping professionals to develop their authentic human leadership capabilities in the age of AI. My customers are internal HR or L&D professionals seeking coaching for their business clients, as well as business leaders looking to connect directly with a coach for themselves or their team members. Use this link to schedule a call with me to discuss potential coaching services. You can also email me or message me on LinkedIn.