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Solution space

Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

Decide on values based on the situation and people at hand. In some problem settings, there will be some values that are more important to maintain or introduce than others values.

In order to decide the important values ask yourself: What is the purpose and function of the new system? What is the ideal future state and why?

Examples of values

  • Equity
  • Efficiency (how fast and at what price?)
  • Impact
  • Accountability
  • Life work balance
  • Sustainability
  • Personal growth
  • Freedom (religious freedom)
  • Happiness
  • Equality
  • Fairness
  • Justice
  • Community
  • Free speech
  • Privacy
  • Safety from environmental hazards
  • Sense of belonging
  • Order
  • Balance
  • Openness
  • Accessibility
  • Transparency
  • Non arbitrariness
  • Justice
  • Harmony
  • Security
  • Well-being
  • Environmental impact
  • Ethical behavior
  • Human dignity
  • Respect
  • Protect common heritage
  • Growth
  • Tranquility
  • Welfare
  • Altruism
  • Community
  • Family time
  • Diversity
  • Resilience
  • Durability
  • Health
  • Wisdom
  • Integration
  • Harmony
  • Awareness
  • Competitiveness
  • Democracy
  • Being heard
  • Security
  • Rationality
  • Conservation
  • Accountability
  • Self-reliance
  • Tolerance
  • Dignity
  • Self-actualization
  • Autonomy
  • Courage
  • Meaning
  • Participatory decision making
  • Responsibility
  • Simplicity
  • Aesthetics beauty
  • Absence of fear
  • Empowerment of workers
  • Voluntarism
  • Trust
  • Liberty
  • Acknowledge future generations
  • Savings
  • Social connectedness

How can we verify ethical judgments

  • Ask yourself what worldview ought to be determining? What different visions of "improvement" should be considered, and how should they be reconciled?
  • Find some means to converse, compare, prioritize, and justly act to reconcile the conflicting ethics of parties.
  • Have we considered the values that protect against exploitation of the weaker by the stronger?
  • What about published professional codes of ethics, such as ASPA, ICMA, AICP, NASW, NSPE.
  • Double check that the values are something that all stakeholders can agree on.

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Advanced topics

Further reading for intermediate problem solvers:

This section helps us to debate moral and ethical aspects of what should be valued. Not all aspects of a situation can easily be measured. Things such as happiness are important for humans, but deciding on solutions that improves wellbeing is difficult and highly subjective. A specific source of happiness for one person might be seen as more valuable to the common good than some other source of happiness.

In order to come up with good solutions we must establish an ethical framework that guides our decisions. What are good and bad solutions? This will eventually be decided based on our ethical and moral standpoints.

This section helps us to surface and decide on the most important values that we should keep in mind when designing solutions. The list of values also helps us to narrow down the solution space as well as to decide on indicators to measure.

Articulating values provides us with guiding lights, ways of choosing among competing priorities and guidelines for how people should work together.

Suggested reading

What are some values to guide us when thinking about solutions to the problem?

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  • Describe the value and why it is important for our challenge.
  • Formulate values for a social community/aggregate/systemic context. Don't use values that you would only use in a person to person context.
  • Add one value statement at a time so they can be voted on individually.

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Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

Based on the values in the previous step, formulate a vision statement.

  • If you had unlimited resources and total control of the situation, what would the transformed situation look like?
  • Describe the ideal situation that compels action toward a desirable outcome.
  • Where do we want to end up?
  • What would a perfect, harmonious and sustainable situation look like?
  • What do you want the world to be like?

If you are in a co-located team you may use design artifacts such as drawings to reflect alternative futures in ways that stimulate stakeholder imagination and new ideas.

Watch out for

Advanced topics

Further reading for intermediate problem solvers:

The vision statement describes how we want the world to be.

It is a picture of the world we seek to create.

The vision statement defines the purpose of this challenge, in terms of values. The vision gives direction and inspires.

The vision also acts as a reminder of where we actually want to go. Focusing too heavily on (the problem) "what is", rather than "what could be" may create solutions that does not transcend real and perceived barriers. Focusing too narrowly on the problem can also blind us in achieving synergy by that could come from leveraging the power of perspectives and creative thinking.

The vision statement is a powerful tool for motivating participants and inspiring others to join.

Suggested reading

What would be a good vision statement?

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Write a vision statement using inspiring words.

  • Your mission is obviously to solve the problem you are currently viewing.
  • Uncover the real, human value in this mission.
  • "Paint" a picture of the world you seek to create.
  • The vision statement should be big and bold (so it inspires).
  • Polish the vision statement until it is inspiring enough to energize and motivate other readers.

The vision statement could start with "We envision a society in which all ..." or "All members of ... have ..." or "We seek a world where ..."


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Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

What ought to be the purpose? That is, what should be the ultimate consequence of solving the problem?

Negotiate a common goal among stakeholders.

Keep in mind that if stakeholders don't agree on the goal you are not likely to succeed.

Frame the goal positively. For example "Elimination of poverty" is a negative goal. Negative goals are usually an attempt to remove an obstacle. Instead try to formulate a more motivating, desirable and collectively sharable positive goal. A goal such as "Economic self-determination" is a goal that includes but also significantly transcends poverty elimination.

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Advanced topics

Further reading for intermediate problem solvers:

Now that we have a sense of what is important (values) and what we want (vision) we can begin to formulate a goal.

This section can be seen as a way to decide on the overarching goal.

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What should the goal be?

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Formulate the goal in a short one sentence line. Frame the goal positively.


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Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

What is it that we will aim for?

What targets should we set? Use 1 to 3 of the key indicators. One key indicator/metric is best for simplicity. This target should be consice and easy to understand for as many as possible.

Look for, and negotiate, a target that all stakeholders can agree on.

Ask all stakeholders for what they think the target should be.

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Advanced topics

Further reading for intermediate problem solvers:

Now that we have a goal we can begin to formulate a target to aim for.

This section can be seen as a way to decide on the target number.

When setting out to change the future we need a guiding star that anyone can agree on and work towards. This needs to be a measuable number so there is no confusion or misunderstanding about when this target is actually reached.

Having a defined target in the form of a single number (upper or lower level of some variable) helps us to communicate our intent in a clear and precise manner.

The target is not on a detailed operational level but rather an ambition or level to aim for.

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What is a good target to aim for?

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Add the target in the form of a number. Add the reasoning behind chosing this paricular number.


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Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

Determine how urgent and severe this problem is?

Timing

Evaluate the timing of solutions by asking how acute it is.

  • Is the problem diminishing? (wait)
  • Are the obstacles diminishing? (wait)
  • Will the cause subside? (wait)
  • Is the problem currently having serious effects? (act now)
  • Is the problem growing? (act now)
  • Are the obstacles growing? (act now)
  • Is the system on the verge of collapse? (act now)
  • Is there a deadline? (act now)
  • Is the situation spiraling out of control? (act now)
Severity
  • Are many people affected?
  • How many are suffering?
  • Is suffering going to last over a long time span?
  • Are people dying?
  • Does it have other severe consequences?
  • Does it cost a lot?

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Advanced topics

Further reading for intermediate problem solvers:

Use this section to summarize how crucial, dire, severe and urgent this problem is.

For a problem to be addressed by decision/policy makers it must be prioritized and evaluated alongside other problems. This sub section helps to communicate the urgency of this particular problem.

Look back on negative effects, trends, likely future effects and the severity of the current problem in order to write a statement about how crucial it is to solve this problem and how fast it should be solved.

Problems that are both severe and urgent should be dealt with promptly.

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What is the level of urgency in resolving the problem?

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Write a paragraph on how urgent you think the problem is.

  • How many people are affected?
  • How bad are they affected and how much does it cost?
  • How many will be affected?
  • Does is need to be solved immediatly?

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Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

Based on all you now know about the problem including the root causes, the values, the vision, what would a summary causal loop diagram look like?

What are the fundamental, most essential components and interactions?

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Advanced topics

Further reading for intermediate problem solvers:

In this sub section we create a summary system diagram for clarity. Creating clarity is important in order to be able to communicate, make sense of and eventually to make decisions on what to do about the problem.

This diagram only has the elements that are most relevant to focus on.

This can only be made after we have decided on scope, values, and have understood the important root causes to target etc.

This diagram should be an accurate, complete and meaningful explanation of problem.

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What would be a clear and concise summary system diagram that shows the root causes of the problem?

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Make sure the diagram is understandable to most people.

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Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

How can the root causes be resolved?

Some of these root causes are likely to be more influential than others. You may want to focus on the most prominent.

Look back to the Summary system diagram in the previous sub section. What loops should be broken, diverted, added, strengthened etc?

What resolving loops can produce systemically desirable changes without significant negative side effects?

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Advanced topics

Further reading for intermediate problem solvers:

A feedback loop that is primarily responsible for the behavior of the system over time is known as a dominant loop. It is essential to identify dominant loops in a system in order to select entry points for intervention.

Resolving loops are the feedback loops (see Causal Loop Diagrams) that should be dominant in order to resolve the root causes.

In this sub section we identify and discuss resolving loops.

Suggested reading

What are the loops that should be dominant to solve the root causes?

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Describe how this feedback loop will actually break or subvert the current vicious loops.


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Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

The task now is to identify the most effective levers for change.

In order to identify the main levers we need to find and understand the relevant variables. Creating the resolving loops usually require a coordinated multi-action approach. In order to find a good repertoire of action strategies we need to look at what can influence the resolving loop(s)?

To do this you may go through the variables (circles/nouns) in the CLD that are directly involved with the resolving loop and ask how influential it is and how influenced it is by other variables.

For a more rigorous process you might assess the strength of these variables by characterizing key variables as active, passive, critical or inert.

  • Active variable. Strong influences on other variables. Little influenced by other variables.
  • Passive variable. Little influences on other variables. Strong influenced by other variables.
  • Critical variable. Strong influences on other variables. Strong influenced by other variables.
  • Inert variable. Little influences on other variables. Little influenced by other variables.

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Now that we have a fairly good understanding about the causes and what feedback loops could put the system into a more optimal state we need to figure out what can be done to make the resolving loop become dominant.

The high leverage points are areas that have the best potential for lasting effect. These are places within the complex system where a relatively small shift in one thing can produce big changes.

While the resolving loops are the needed system feedback mechanisms to resolve the problem, the leverage points should be understood as the most effective actions that will create the resolving conditions.

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What are the high leverage points that will make the resolving loops become dominant?

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The leverage point should be an action that will have high positive impact relative to the cost of implementing the change. The action should not be a concrete call to action but rather a strategy or way ahead.

  • Describe why this action has more potential impact.
  • Refer to the causal loop diagrams, system diagrams and other parts of the analysis.
  • Make a note about what leverage points decision makers can influence. What level of power and mandate is required for this leverage point?

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Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

Decide what metrics to use. How should we measure progress?

Several metrics are needed to make sure solutions cover all important aspects, so to maximize the benefit for all affected parties now and in the long run.

To do this we need to measure variables on different aspects that together constitute a holistic framework for assessing solutions.

To find relevant metrics you may ask stakeholders the following questions?

  • What are we trying to achieve?
  • What are we trying to preserve?
  • What are we trying to avoid?
  • What are we trying to eliminate?
  • What ought to be measure of improvements? How can we determine if the solution constitutes an improvement for all?

Combine these answers with the list of values and compile a list of metrics.

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Advanced topics

Further reading for intermediate problem solvers:

This sub section helps us to decide on the metrics that should be used for evaluating solutions.

A metric here is some relevant variable that should be measured.

Metrics are different from the indicators. Indicators are used to track the extent of the problem. Usually there are only one or a few indicators. The indicators usually have a too high or too low value, and this IS the problem.

Metrics are also different from targets. The target is the main overarching goal of the challenge. The metrics are secondary to the target but the combination of metrics is still just as important.

Metrics are used on a deeper operational level while the target is mostly used on a superficial level to communicate the progress of solving problem.

When solving the problem we cannot just fix the key indicator or make sure the target is reached. We must also take into account other important variables/aspects to make sure the system is balanced, fair and sustainable. (to avoid bad side effects)

Reducing one variable will usually increase another and vice versa. Solutions must see to that all relevant variables remain within acceptable thresholds.

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What are good metrics to help rank solutions?

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  • Make sure it is something that can be measured.
  • Add one matric per content item.
  • Describe the metric and what unit of measurement can be used.

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Suggested tasks/questions for this sub section

  • What are some relevant laws and regulations that have to be followed?
  • What are the things that have to be maintained?
  • What are the things that cannot be compromised?
  • What has to be fulfilled?
  • What must be included (or excluded)?
  • What requirements can be formulated based on the values in the previous sections?

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Advanced topics

Further reading for intermediate problem solvers:

The requirements are things that have to be satisfied by any solution to the problem.

A requirement describes a feature, property, behavior or characteristic that simply has to be fulfilled.

In many cases there are constraints that should not or cannot be avoided so we add them as a requirement.

A benefit of requirements is that they steer the design of solutions. In doing so they reduce the solution space and makes the search for solutions faster.

In the implementation phase of solutions we use the requirements to verify and demonstrate that the system design is "correct" with respect to the requirements.

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What are some requirements for our solutions?

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At this stage requirements do not need to be very detailed.

  • Be sure to argument for why it is included.
  • Make sure the requirements are concrete enough that it can be tested/measured/validated.
  • At this stage requirements should not be very detailed. Change projects also have requirements specifications and these are much more concrete and detailed.
  • You may want to include something about target values and tolerance for measurements of the requirement.
  • A requirement should be: adequate, internally consistent, unambiguous, complete, satisfied, and minimal.
  • A good requirement is: usable, communicable, evolvable and based on analysis.

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