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 Debates & Lectures archive

City Talk: 'Messes, problems and puzzles: thinking about change'

This talk took place on the 1st June 2011

Speaker: Gerald Ashley (Managing Director,
St Mawgan & Co – Behavioural Risk Adviser) signed copies of his book Two Speed World were sold afterwards in association with Daunt Books

In an in-depth analysis which used many analogies and a breadth of common experience, Gerald Ashley conveyed some very complex thinking in a comprehensible and engaging way.

The same event can mean entirely different, though related, outcomes for different participants, he explained, giving an example of two competing businesses in the same street. If one business goes bust, that means disaster for it, but suddenly no competition – and better outcomes – for the other.

The left and right sides of the brain are often cited in relation to the contrast between a logical and a creative approach. People like to be seen as creative but rarely boast about being very logical. In reality we are all a mix of both strengths according to our environment. C.P. Snow saw people as scientific or artistic; individuals and groups find it very difficult to bridge those two disciplines.

All the issues of change we have to deal with can be categorised in three ways: messes (where we don’t even know what the issues are); problems (which have a range of solutions); and puzzles (which have a single answer). People are very willing to pay for solutions; people also like to be able to provide solutions for others, but there is often difficulty associated with the provision of a single solution. We have to ask ‘what are the right tools to apply to each situation?’ Most of all, can we adapt to change?

Gerald Ashley 01E
Gerald Ashley Book cover LR
Gerald Ashley 02E