Complexity of Today's problems

From Part IV. of "The Fifth Discipline" by Peter Senge Openness and Complexity Nothing undermines openness more surely than certainty. Once we feel as if we have "the answer", all motivation to question our thinking disappears. But the discipline of systems thinking shows that there simply is "no right answer" when dealing with complexity. A simple exercise we have used in our leadership workshops for many years gets at the central point. We cover a large wall with blank paper, and then ask the group to work together to map out all the feedback relationships in a particular problem with which they are wrestling. The first time I saw the "Wall" it emerged accidentally. In the late 1970's, Donella Meadows led a three-hour workshop on third world malnutrition with respected international experts, trying to build a comprehensive model, based on all their knowledge, of the causes of global hunger. Before long, the chart included everything from economic factor, to politic to cultural values to international trade. In the audience, an experienced lobbyist on food and peace issues began moaning and shaking her head. Finally, Donella stopped the session to ask if she was ill. "My God," said the lobbyist. "All my life, I assumed that somebody, somewhere, knew the answer to this problem. I thought politicians knew what had to be done, but refused to do it out of politics and gree. But now I realize that nobody knows the answer. Not us, not them, not anybody." Divergent problems have no "correct" solution. The more they are studied by people with knowledge and intelligence the more they "come up with answers with contradict one another". The difficulty lies not with the experts, but in the nature of the problem itself. Divergent problems offend the logical mind, which wishes to remove tension by coming down on one side or the other. Only genuine openness allows people to deal productively with them. Openness emerges when two or more individuals are willing to suspend their certainty in each other's presence. They become willing to share their thinking and susceptible to having their thinking influenced by one another. And in a state of openness, they gain access to depths of understanding not accessible otherwise.