Smashing Paradigms – Stop thinking your way to decisions !

Latest in the series on Smashing Paradigms. For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. One way of defining a paradigm is “we’ve always done it this way”




As leaders, whether we do this ourselves, in collaboration with others, or by creating an environment for the right questions to be asked and answered, we are responsible for solving problems.

However, in all my experience, we only use one part of our human ability to solve problems, and that is by THINKING.

What if, as per the quote above, we recognise instead that at least as large a part of our ability to process information comes from FEELING?

Reiki masters can tell us, from thousands of years of practice passed down from generations of masters, that so much more energy is generated, processed, emanated from our heart and other energy centres than our rational mind.

In more modern times, science is beginning to catch up with the wisdom of the ancients, so neuroscientists are now able, more and more, to confirm such wisdom with their evidence-based analysis.

To go one level further, I will also put to you that we don’t separate THINKING and FEELING in processing and solving problems, instead we integrate them.

To illustrate, I will use a discussion of the difference between three words used to consider problems. Those words are :

  • Simple
  • Complicated
  • Complex

First, concise definitions of each in the context of problem solving, and keeping everything easy !


  • Limited elements, variables. All known. Just do it ! X+Y=Z,
  • Most people can accomplish.
  • Example : Recipe for a meal


  • Lots of elements, more complex variables. Still solvable through process, algorithm.
  • Requires expertise.
  • Example : Building an offshore oil production platform


  • Too many “unknown unknowns” to define “how to get to” a solution
  • Requires : Holistic approach
  • Example : Transforming a corporate culture. Understanding national Economies.


That was about as simplified as I could make it, so now let’s look at the sort of real world example of how we integrate both THINKING and FEELING in solving problems.

Imagine a CEO looking to getting everybody in their leadership team and then the whole company on board with a transformation of the company.

Their idea is: “We will be the leader in emerging technologies in our industry“.

Problem ? Right now they are a long time player that is known to be best in market at working with established technologies, practices, methods, but not a leader in emerging technologies.

The CEO sees the future, but it is so different to the things currently are that they recognise that it will be really difficult to get everyone to buy into it. In short, a “Complex” problem. So, what will they do as a leadership team ?

Here is a hypothetical yet typical way they may start and then, when it fails, how they may approach it differently (perhaps if working someone who *cough* understands these thinking and feeling dynamics !).

Typical approach #Fail :

  • Action (Thinking process) : “Let’s analyse the problem” (as we would for a “Complicated” problem)
  • Resulting Feeling : Overwhelming (ie problem feels BEYOND “Complex“). AAAGH !
  • Outcome : Often a massively disruptive and expensive change management process out of which nothing really changes, as nobody addressed the FEELING side.

So, instead, some steps that themselves move this from Complex to Complicated, in that carrying through each of these steps involves expertise, but is solvable !

Step 1

  • This step is about shifting the problem down to something that FEELS only “Complicated” rather than “Complex
  • First, allow everyone to download all of the issues, challenges, opportunities, data, inputs they see to the whole group. Can take hours and afterwards things will often feel every more overwhelming than before.
  • Next, look to assess the themes that emerge from this. This is an expert-facilitated process, but it does bring forward a distillation of the issues down to a level that is more accessible and easier to understand what sits at the core.
  • When this is patiently completed, it FEELS to the team challenging but no longer overwhelming. It FEELS like you’ve moved it from Complex to Complicated and they can handle that. They feel relieved and so engaged and aligned.
  • Outcome : Key to note that nothing has yet changed wth the underlying problem. From a THINKING level it remains Complex, not yet down to Complicated… yet Step 1 is to make it FEEL easier.

Step 2

  • After Step 1, where it FEELS stepped down to Complicated, yet is still a Complex problem, the energy of the group is freed to believe they can solve the problem.
  • This step is then to apply a THINKING process to the themes coming from Step 1, so that the team can create actual processes through their expertise that make this actually change from a status of Complex to Complicated.
  • Now you have truly stepped the problem down to one that is Complicated. Confidence in their ability to make it happen is growing.

Step 3

  • (I’m skipping a few steps here, simply looking to illustrate how one can move from one level to the next !)
  • Just as we shifted the problem from Complex to Complicated by moving the FEELING first then the THINKING, we can do the same to move it from Complicated to Simple.
  • Process for this? Again expert-facilitated, as it requires patience and, above all else, the ability to read manage, work with energy and feelings in and of a group. In summary, to take all the themes you used successfully to move from Complex to Complicated and to distil them to one or two words or a short phrase at most.
  • When you achieve this in a way that energetically lands for all of the team, they become absolute evangelists, they FEEL it is Simple to accomplish.
  • They then can (in future steps), take this as the core driver in all the processes and methods in the organisation to make problems that felt complicated feel Simple.
  • A brilliant example of this is the phrase that drove Apple for many years. Clearly a business driven by solving problems that were way beyond Complex, yet it always felt like they had a Simple objective, a problem to solve.
  • You see, Apple existed to “put a dent in the universe”. Simple

As the kids say “Simples” !







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