Articles and Reading


Melissa Semcer

“Learning COS catapulted me to the next level, both in my thinking about how to solve difficult problems and in moving me forward in my career."
- Melissa Semcer, Administrative Law Judge, California Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco, CA

The Collaborative Organization

Hierarchy is a 5500-year-old structure originally applied to large, unskilled labor pools such as those for building projects and infantry. As a structure, it’s useful for depicting the relationships between things. In organizations, a hierarchy tells you where the power is - which is important! Yet for all that it is, hierarchy is not, nor has it ever been, a system for leading and managing complex organizations such as the ones that exist today, where the labor pool is often as well-informed and educated as their “superiors,” sometimes more so...

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Identify the Problem

The primary work of organizations is problem solving. Once a goal has been set, problem solving commences to close the gap between the current state and the goal. There are both art and science involved in being a good problem-solver, especially if you want to solve problems in groups.

The first step in any collaborative effort should focus on identifying the problem and stating it clearly and succinctly in the form of a coherent problem statement...

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Wicked Problems

Have you heard the term, "wicked problem"? In 2006, Jeff Conklin,Ph.D, published a book, Dialogue Mapping: Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems, in which he built on the work of Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber. Conklin explains that it's the social complexity (not the technical complexity) that makes wicked problems inherently difficult to solve. Conklin explains how distinguishing between tame and wicked problems is a critical, and mostly ignored, first step in attempting to address them. He also explains how we try to apply the same thinking, tools, and methods to both types of problems, bringing predictably negative results.

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