Welcome University of Sydney students and staff to the early release of our online short course!  It’s in beta right now and you will see updates week-by-week.

 
View module descriptions View module titles only
  1. 00
    How this course works

    This short video explains how the course is structured and offers suggestions for how you might approach your learning to get the most out of it.

Part I

Complexity and the 21st Century

  1. 01
    Introduction

    In this module we'll explore why a growing number of people and organisations are citing complex problem solving as a necessary, if not the most-needed, skillset for the 21st Century.

  2. 02
    Is the world becoming more complex (and what does that mean anyway)?

    This lesson explores what we actually mean when we describe something as complex. We’ll delve into the world of complexity science and think about the implications of complexity for our work.

  3. 03
    How many of us problem-solve and think, much of the time, is outdated

    Yes! I think this is true. Not all of us, not always, but often. This module explores why our traditional methods of problem-solving are no longer up for the job, and what needs to change.

Part II

21st Century Thinking Skills

  1. 04
    What is higher-order thinking?

    Here we explore what we mean by ‘higher-order’, or ‘higher-level’ thinking, and why these thinking skills are essential for complementing our discipline-based knowledge and areas of expertise.

  2. 05
    Strategic Thinking

    This lesson explores what we mean by the words ‘strategy’, ‘policy’ and ‘strategic thinking’ and we’ll delve into contemporary thinking about what effective strategy and strategic thinking entail.

  3. 06
    Systems Thinking

    Systems thinking is a useful way to think about and understand complex things. This lesson introduces some fundamental systems concepts that we will use throughout the course.

  4. 07
    Critical Thinking

    Increasingly in this post-truth world of alternative facts and fake news, critical thinking is regarded as being essential. Here we explore what critical thinking means, and useful tips for how to do it.

  5. 08
    Design Thinking and Design

    Design Thinking is one of the buzziest buzz words of recent times, but there is some misunderstanding about what ‘design thinking’ and ‘design’ are, so we’ll explain them here.

  6. 09
    Creative Thinking

    Many challenges we encounter we haven’t come across before, so we need new and useful ideas for dealing with them. We'll explore things we can do to nurture creativity and spark creative ideas.

  7. 10
    Structured and Analytical Thinking

    Counter-balancing thinking ‘outside-the-box’ is a need to make sense of our world. Structured and analytical thinking help us to organise information in order to deepen our understanding of things.

  8. 11
    Futures Thinking

    Futures thinking helps us recognise that we don’t know what the future holds, and to pre-empt what might happen so our work is more resilient to threats, and more ready for opportunities.

  9. 12
    A conceptual model for complex problem solving

    Until now complex problem solving hasn’t been associated with any particular approach or model for ‘how to do it’ (that we’ve come across anyway). This is where we’ll introduce one.

Part III

20 Questions for Complex Problem Solving, Strategy and Design

  1. 13
    20 Questions for complex problem solving - an introduction

    There is a pattern to the things we need to think about, in order to grapple effectively with complex challenges. The 20 Questions capture this pattern. Here we explain how they can be used.

  2. 14
    Build a Deeper Understanding of the Situation - Introduction

    Here we explore why building a deeper understanding of the situation you’re grappling with is essential for generating useful insights about what to do. It is literally like turning on a lightbulb!

  3. 15
    Question 1: Framing the Problem and Desired Outcome

    Framing the problem and desired outcome(s) well, is one of the most important things you can do to foster innovation. Yet people often overlook this critical early step and jump straight to solutions.

  4. 16
    Question 2: Context, constraints and requirements

    Rarely do we start designing a solution or strategy from a ‘blank page’. There are usually important context, constraints, and requirements that need to be satisfied or considered.

  5. 17
    Question 3: Knowns and unknowns

    People tend to form judgements and make decisions based on the information they have, which is almost always, incomplete information. Here we explore how we can manage unknowns.

  6. 18
    Question 4: Never miss an opportunity to learn and gain insight

    Whenever we come across new information, it is an opportunity to learn something. There are three questions we can ask habitually of ourselves and others to help us learn things and gain insight.

  7. 19
    Question 5: Understand the system

    Often when we try to explain why something is happening we defer to dichotomies of simple cause-and-effect relationships, but this is an oversimplification. Here we explore a technique for understanding why complex things occur.

  8. 20
    (Re-)design the system and rigorously think your ideas through - Introduction

    ‘Design’ is often overlooked when solutions for complex challenges are developed. Here we’ll explore what it means to design (or re-design) a system, and how to think your ideas through.

  9. 21
    Question 6: Re-design the system, analytically

    Here we’ll explore the differences between a ‘strategy’ and a ‘system’, why they are both required to bring a different outcome about, how they are intertwined, and how to design them.

  10. 22
    Question 7: Thinking creatively about problems and solutions

    Great ideas need analytical rigour, but often they have a creative beginning. We’ll explore practical techniques for thinking about problems and solutions from different angles to form creative ideas.

  11. 23
    Question 8: Goal design

    We use goals, targets, KPIs or objectives to measure progress and to judge performance. Here we'll explore why goals are so powerful but why it is so important to design them well, and how to do this.

  12. 24
    Question 9: Necessary conditions and assumptions

    Common reasons why a strategy fails to deliver the outcome are – the conditions that need to be in place for it to work have not been considered, and, assumptions have not been tested.

  13. 25
    Question 10: People and behavioural insights

    Behavioural insights are factors that influence what people think and do. They provide a way of understanding, and (ethically) encouraging or discouraging certain behaviours.

  14. 26
    Question 11: Consequences

    In this highly interconnected world, all actions have flow-on effects. The more we pre-empt them, the more we can mitigate the negative consequences and amplify the positive ones.

  15. 27
    Question 12: Trade-offs

    When designing strategies or solutions there are usually competing factors to consider. Here we explore the factors that need to be balanced, and practical ways to help make the trade-offs.

  16. 28
    Question 13: Integration and implementation

    Here we’ll explore why the risks of ‘poor implementation’ are greatly reduced when implementation is treated as an integral part of strategy design rather than as a separate process after design.

  17. 29
    Take an evidence-based approach - Introduction

    What does 'evidence-based' mean? Here we’ll explore a simple and versatile model for taking an evidence-based approach in the context of problem-solving and decision-making.

  18. 30
    Question 14: Strategy logic

    Some say there is nothing more important for a strategy than an understanding of how it will work. Here we explore how to explain how the things you plan to do will lead to the changes you want.

  19. 31
    Question 15: Strategy rationale

    Having reasons for our judgments and decisions allows us to defend our ideas and persuade others. We’ll explore how to develop a strong argument and how to evaluate other people's arguments.

  20. 32
    Question 16: Data and Information

    The role of information and data has never been more significant. This module is a reminder of what to be on the look-out for when using data to inform and justify ideas and decisions.

  21. 33
    Work with uncertainty - Introduction

    For complex challenges there is uncertainty in many aspects and while we will never remove uncertainty, there are two things we can do to work with uncertainty more effectively.

  22. 34
    Question 17: Evaluation & Learning and adaptive design

    What works and what doesn’t (and why) is the most difficult question with the most valuable answer. This module explores some fundamental concepts for doing evaluation well.

  23. 35
    Question 18: Risk, resilience, agility and innovation

    Taking a purposeful approach to managing risk and fostering agility, resilience and innovation are critical for working effectively with uncertainty. We’ll look at tips for doing each of these well.

  24. 36
    Engage others - Introduction

    We can’t do the first four complex problem solving activities well without doing this one well. We’ll see why engaging others is so important for informing, testing and building support for our ideas.

  25. 37
    Question 19: Interdisciplinary perspectives, listening & purposeful conversations

    Considering interdisciplinary perspectives is critical for success with complex challenges. We’ll explore why this is, and practical ideas for listening and having purposeful conversations.

  26. 38
    Question 20: Compelling Communication

    In this lesson we’ll explore practical techniques for communicating compellingly so that our ideas are understood by, and resonate with others.

  1. 39
    Bringing it all together - two complex case studies

    This is where we pull all the ideas together to see how they might be applied over the course of a project. We also explore a couple of complex case studies.

  2. 40
    Conclusion

    Well done! This is the final module in the Navigate Complexity course. Here we make some concluding remarks about complex problem solving.