This article will provide you with an indicative summary of the material I can teach your team when you engage me to provide Complex Problem Solving training. I have taught all of this material at University level, and to personnel in the Public and Private sector,, since 2014. Please have a look at my Testimonials page to see how much benefit people have gained from my training.

Complex Problem Solving Training

David Olney

30 June, 2022

In a world defined by complexity, uncertainty, and an abundance of information, possessing effective problem-solving techniques can make the difference between mastery of situations, and being overwhelmed by them. My Complex Problem Solving training is designed to equip participants with practical and broadly applicable analysis and interpretation skills. It will enhance participants’ awareness, analytical ability, and capacity to adapt to new challenges. My training is designed to enable you to identify and comprehend complex problems and gain familiarity with a suite of practical problem-solving techniques.

At the completion of the training, you will be able to employ lateral and critical analysis skills to decide: what is the problem, how can I effectively address it, what techniques would I use, and How will I know if I have successfully addressed the problem?

This training draws on research from several disciplines, including Philosophy, Logic, Operations Research, Behavioural Economics, Psychology, and Neuroscience. By integrating a combination of techniques from these fields, this training acknowledges that there are several ways to identify, understand, and address complex problems. All too frequently, the solution to a complex problem is only as good as the techniques that were applied to address it, so being a confident and competent problem solver is very important. In order to promote competence and confidence, this training employs a combination of explanations, examples, and opportunities to put concepts into practice, with both team activities and individual tasks to encourage reflection.

Introduction and Foundational Skills

Key Concepts:

What you do is who you are

Complexity can be overwhelming

Marginal Losses and Marginal Gains

You never start from zero: Asset Based Thinking

Skills: what are they and how do we get them?

Productivity and Positivity

Using a Research Diary: keeping track of what you are doing and how it is affecting your thinking

Operations Research: what we can learn about complex problem solving from World War II

Recommended  Videos:

3 great untruths to stop telling kids—and ourselves | Jonathan Haidt – YouTube

3 ways to measure your adaptability — and how to improve it | Natalie Fratto

A Conversation with Edward B. Burger about The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking – YouTube

The art of argument _ Jordan Peterson – YouTube

Atomic Habits: How to Get 1% Better Every Day – James Clear – YouTube

Book TV: Stephen Budiansky, “Blackett’s War” – YouTube

The Dark Side of Self Improvement | Suzanne Eder | TEDxWilmington – YouTube

The End is Always Near, by Dan Carlin Audiobook Excerpt

Epstein and Gladwell discuss “Range” at MIT – David Epstein – YouTube

Fear Is Your Future | Penny Locaso | TEDxMelbourne – YouTube

From 300lbs to a Navy SEAL: Gain control of your mind and life | Big Think Top 10 | David Goggins – YouTube

How to make hard choices | Ruth Chang – YouTube

How to open up the next level of human performance | Steven Kotler | TEDxABQ – YouTube

How to study better and avoid a test-day disaster | David Epstein – YouTube

How to Take a Risk and Succeed with Jonah Sachs – YouTube


How you can use impostor syndrome to your benefit | Mike Cannon-Brookes

official HUMANE TECH – Tristan Harris – “Humane: A New Agenda for Tech”

Rebecca Costa: The Watchman’s Rattle – Thinking Our Way Out of Extincition – YouTube

Sir Dave Brailsford – CORE Principle and Marginal Gains – YouTube

Sir Dave Brailsford – The 1% Factor – YouTube

The Surprising Power of Small Habits | James Clear | SNAPS Leadership Conference – YouTube

TEDxBloomington – Shawn Achor – “The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance” – YouTube

What You Do Is Who You Are by Ben Horowitz | Book Summary

Why comfort will ruin your life | Bill Eckstrom | TEDxUniversityofNevada

You Roc! With Asset-Based Thinking: Kathy Cramer at TEDxYouth@Indianapolis – YouTube

Key Resources:

Achor, Shawn (August, 2015). Before Happiness: Five Actionable Strategies to Create a Positive Path to Success. Bolinda Publishing, Audiobook Edition.

Budiansky, Stephen (2013). Blackett’s War. Tantor Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Burger, Edward B. and Michael Starbird (2012). The Five Elements of Effective Thinking. Audible, Audiobook Edition.

Carlin, Dan (2019). The End Is Always Near: Apocalyptic Moments from the Bronze Age Collapse to Nuclear Near Misses. HarperCollins Publishers, Audiobook Edition.

Center for Humane Technology (2019). The Problem.

Clear, James (2018). Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones. Random House, Audiobook Edition.

Cooke, Ed (2008). Remember, Remember: Learn the Stuff You Thought You Never Could. Penguin Books, Kindle Edition.

Costa, Rebecca D. (2010). The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction. Audible Inc., Audiobook Edition.

Coyle, Daniel (2010). The Talent Code: Greatness isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Cornerstone Digital, Kindle Edition.

Cramer, Kathryn D. (2014). Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do. Audible Studios, Audiobook Edition.

Duckworth, Angela (2016). Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Random House Audiobooks, Audiobook Edition.

Epstein, David (2019). Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Macmillan Digital Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Ericsson, Anders and Geoffrey Beevers (2016). Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. Random House Audiobooks, Audible Edition.

Foer, Joshua (2011). Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Penguin Books, Audiobook Edition.

Goggins, David (2018). Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds. Goggins Built Not Born, Audiobook Edition.

Horowitz, Ben (2019).  What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture. HarperCollins Publishers, Audiobook Edition.

Kaufman, Josh (2013). The First 20 Hours: How to learn anything … fast. Worldly Wisdom Ventures, Audible Audiobook.

Kelly, Lynne (2016). The Memory Code. Audible Studios, Audiobook Edition.

Kotler, Steven and Jamie Wheal (2017). Stealing Fire. HarperCollins Publishers, Audiobook Edition.

Marcus, Aubrey (2018). Own the Day, Own Your Life: Optimised Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping and Sex. HarperCollins Publishers, Audiobook Edition.

Olney, David (2022). Marginal Losses: An Explanation of Suboptimal Institutional and System Performance.

What is a problem? How do we begin to make sense of a problem?

Key Concepts:

What is a problem?

What is a complex problem?

How to frame and ask a question

Bayes Theorem

Thinking Fast and Slow

How does technology influence the way we work?

Nominal Group Technique

Working alone and working with others

Transcendent Meaning

Survivorship Bias

Recommended Videos:

Daniel Kahneman: “Thinking, Fast and Slow” | Talks at Google – YouTube

Dr. Marilee Adams Defining Mindsets – YouTube

Encourage critical thinking with 3 questions | Brian Oshiro | TEDxXiguan

Julia Galef: Think Rationally via Bayes’ Rule – YouTube

The Jungle Grows Back – YouTube

Nicholas Carr’s ‘The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains’ – YouTube

Sharon Bertsch McGrayne: “The Theory That Would Not Die” | Talks at Google – YouTube

When To Trust Your Gut | Spencer Greenberg | TEDxColumbusCircle

Key Resources:

Adams, Marilee G. (2016). Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (3rd Edition). Berrett-Koehler, Kindle Edition.

Bertsch McGrayne, Sharon (2012). The Theory that Would not Die. Tantor Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Carr, Nicholas (2011). The Shallows: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think, Read and Remember. Audible, Audiobook Edition.

Eagleman, David (2012). Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. Canongate Books, Audiobook Edition.

Frankl, Viktor E. (2004). Man’s Search for Meaning. Blackstone Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Kagan, Robert (2018). The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World. Random House Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Kahneman, Daniel (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Penguin Books, Audiobook Edition.

Pink, Daniel H. (2011). Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Canongate, Audiobook Edition.

Pyle, James and Maryann Karinch (2014). Find Out Anything from Anyone, Anytime: Secrets of Calculated Questioning from a Veteran Interrogator. Gildan Media, Audiobook Edition.

Strecher, Victor J. (2016). Life on Purpose. HarperAudio, Audiobook Edition.

Turkle, Sherry (2015). Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. Penguin Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Techniques for solving problems

Key Concepts:

Insight: how to get it?

Training to fail

Alexander’s Question

The Planning Fallacy



Reference Class Forecasting

Maximising versus Satisficing

Eisenhower’s Priority Matrix

What is essential?

Recommended Videos:

5 Things to Do When You Have Too Many Ideas and Never Finish Anything – YouTube

The Eisenhower matrix: How to manage your tasks with EISENHOWER – YouTube

Greg McKeown: Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – YouTube

Michael Jordan “Failure” Nike Commercial – YouTube

Satisficing v. Maximizing (Choices) – YouTube

Three Ways to Gain More Insights – YouTube

What I learned from going blind in space | Chris Hadfield – YouTube

Key Resources:

Duhigg, Charles (2016). Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive. Random House Audiobooks, Audiobook Edition.

Hadfield, Chris (2013). An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth. Pan Macmillan, Audiobook Edition.

Klein, Gary (2011). StreetLights and Shadows: Searching for the Keys to Adaptive Decision Making. A Bradford Book, Kindle Edition.

Klein, Gary (2014). Seein What Others Don’t: The Remarkable Ways We Gain Insights. Brilliance Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Krogerus, Mikael and Roman Tschäppeler (2017). The Decision Book: Fifty models for strategic thinking (New Edition). Profile Books, Kindle Edition.

McKeown, Greg (2015). Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Random House Audiobooks, Audiobook Edition.

Silver, Nate (2012). The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction. Allen Lane, Kindle Edition.

Van Witteloostuijn, Arjen (1988). “Maximising and satisficing opposite or equivalent concepts?.” Journal of Economic Psychology 9.3: pp. 289-313.

More techniques for solving problems

Key Concepts:

High Reliability Organisations

Resilience: five key characteristics

Time perception

Expertise: how it works and when to trust it?

Fresh perspective and a clean sheet of paper

Google’s Sprint

Mindset: Fixed versus Growth

5 Whys

Useful Videos:

Andy McNab Explains the SA80.mp4

Carol Dweck, “Developing a Growth Mindset” – YouTube

Claudia Hammond introduces her new book, Time Warped – YouTube

David Eagleman_ How to Slow Down Your Perception of Time – YouTube

From stress to resilience  | Raphael Rose | TEDxManhattanBeach

GV’s Sprint Process in 90 Seconds – YouTube

Japan Points the Way to Better Safety – YouTube

Why an Open Mind Is Key to Making Better Predictions – YouTube

Key Resources:

Boyd, John and Philip Zimbardo (2012). The Time Paradox: Using the New Psychology of Time to Your Advantage. Ebury Digital, Kindle Edition.

Coyle, Daniel (2012). The Little Book of Talent. Cornerstone Digital, Kindle Edition.

Dweck, Carol (2009). Mindset. Gildan Media, Audiobook Edition.

Everly Jr., George S. and Douglas A. Strouse (2015). Stronger: Develop the Resilience You Need to Succeed. Gildan Media, Audiobook Edition.

Hammond, Claudia (2012). Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception. Canongate Books, Kindle Edition.

Knapp, Jake and John Zeratsky (2016). Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just five days. Random House Audiobooks, Audiobook Edition.

Syed, Matthew (2015). Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success. John Murray, Audiobook Edition.

Tetlock, Philip and Dan Gardner (2015). Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction. Cornerstone Digital, Kindle Edition.

Weick, Karl E. and Kathleen M. Sutcliff (2012). Managing the Unexpected: Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty. Audible Studios, Audiobook Edition.

How to avoid contributing to the problem

Key Concepts:

Cognitive Dissonance

Why are we both irrational and predictable?

Identifying and overcoming biases

The power of situations

The Fear Bubble

Skin in the Game: The Code of Hammurabi

Altered consciousness and enhanced performance

Priming and Framing

Useful Videos:

Ant Middleton Reveals He Feels Stronger by Seeking Out Fear | This Morning

Cognitive dissonance (Dissonant & Justified) – YouTube

Cognitive Dissonance Theory: A Crash Course – YouTube

Dan Ariely asks, Are we in control of our decisions_.mp4

Discovering Psychology – The Power of the Situation.mp4

Honest liars — the psychology of self-deception: Cortney Warren at TEDxUNLV – YouTube

Ideology drives us apart. Neuroscience can bring us back together.

Jonathan Haidt_ How common threats can make common (political) ground

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: “Skin in the Game” | Talks at Google

ONE Series | Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal on Stealing Fire – YouTube

You Are Not So Smart – Launch Trailer – YouTube

Key Resources:

Ariely, Dan (2016). Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. HarperCollins Publishers, Audiobook Edition.

Cooper, Joel M. (2007). Cognitive Dissonance: 50 Years of a Classic Theory. Sage Publications, Kindle Edition.

Duhigg, Charles (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change. . Cornerstone Digital, Kindle Edition.

Eagleman, David (2015). The Brain: The Story of You. Canongate Books, Audiobook Edition.

Furedi, Frank (2018). How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century. Bloomsbury Continuum, Kindle Edition.

Kotler, Steven and Jamie Wheal (2017). Stealing Fire. HarperCollins Publishers, Audiobook Edition.

Lakoff, George (2014). The All New Don’t Think of an Elephant. Chelsea Green, Kindle Edition.

Levitin, Daniel (2015). The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload. Penguin, Audiobook Edition.

McRaney, David (2011). You are not so Smart. Gildan Media, Audiobook Edition.

Middleton, Ant (2019). The Fear Bubble: How to Harness Fear and Live Without Limits. HarperCollins, Audiobook Edition.

Mlodinow, Leonard (2016). Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behaviour. Audible Studios, Audiobook Edition.

Powell, Colin (2012). It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership . Harper Collins Publishers, Audiobook Edition.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2018). Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life. Random House Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Zimbardo, Philip (2011). The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil. Tantor, Audiobook Edition.

Leading the way and working in teams

Key Concepts:

Situated Learning

Differences between a leader and a manager

Leading a group of individuals

Rebel Ideas

Intelligent Disobedience

The Righteous Mind

Servant Leadership

Supporting Innovation

The power of Positive Psychology

Useful Videos:

Ex-Navy SEALs on the dichotomy of leadership – YouTube

Extreme Ownership | Jocko Willink | TEDxUniversityofNevada – YouTube

Finding meaning in difficult times (Interview with Dr. Viktor Frankl) – YouTube

Finding Your True North

The Future of Strategic Military Leadership | Murphy Danahy | TEDxWestPoint – YouTube

General Stanley McChrystal (US Army, Ret.) – “Leaders: Myth and Reality” – YouTube

Great Leaders Do What Drug Addicts Do | Michael Brody-Waite | TEDxNashville

Great leadership comes down to only two rules | Peter Anderton | TEDxDerby – YouTube

Jill Morgenthaler at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library

Jocko Willink and Leif Babin – The Dichotomy of Leadership – YouTube

Jocko Willink – Extreme Ownership – PART 1/2 | London Real – YouTube

Jocko Willink – The Meaning of Extreme Ownership – YouTube

John Ralston Saul: The Cult of Neoliberalism – YouTube

The little risks you can take to increase your luck | Tina Seelig – YouTube

The Myths and Realities of Leadership with General Stanley McChrystal

The puzzle of motivation | Dan Pink – YouTube

The Secret Life of Social Norms | Michele Gelfand, PhD | TEDxPaloAltoSalon – YouT

Stop Managing, Start Leading _ Hamza Khan _ TEDxRyersonU – YouTube (360p).mp4

WHAT IS EXTREME OWNERSHIP? – Jocko Willink on London Real – YouTube

Why good leaders make you feel safe | Simon Sinek

Key Resources:

Bennis, Warren (2009). On Becoming a Leader. Basic Books, Kindle Edition.

Burken, Scott (2013). The Year Without Pants. Jossey-Bass, Kindle Edition.

Chaleff, Ira (2015). Intelligent Disobedience. Berrett-Koehler, Audiobook Edition.

Davey, Liane (2013). You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get along, and Get Stuff Done. Wiley, Kindle Edition.

Fabritius, Friederike and Hans W. Hagemann (2017). The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier. TarcherPerigee, Kindle Edition.

Frankl, Viktor E. (2004). Man’s Search for Meaning. Blackstone Audio, Audiobook Edition.

George, Bill and David Gergen (2015). Discover Your True North (2nd Edition). Jossey-Bass, Kindle Edition.

Haidt, Jonathan (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. Penguin, Kindle Edition.

Hunter, James C. (2004). The World’s Most Powerful Leadership Principle: How to Become a Servant Leader. Crown Business, Kindle Edition.

Lave, Jean and Etienne Wenger (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press, Kindle Edition.

McChrystal, Stanley, Jason Mangone, and Jeff Eggers (2018). Leaders: Myth and Reality. Penguin Books, Audiobook Edition.

Morgenthaler, Jill (2015). The Courage to Take Command. McGraw-Hill Digital, Audiobook Edition.

Pink, Daniel H. (2011). Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. Canongate, Audiobook Edition.

Ralston Saul, John (1997). Unconscious Civilization. Free Press.

Seligman, Martin (2011). Flourish. RHA eBooks Adult, Kindle Edition.

Syed, Matthew (2019). Rebel Ideas: The Power of Diverse Thinking. Hodder & Stoughton, Audiobook Edition.

Wagner, Tony (2012). Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. Simon & Schuster Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Willink, Jocko and Leif Babin (2015). Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. Mamcillan Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Organisational structure and dealing with complexity

Key Concepts:

Different leaders and organisational structures for different situations?


Hybrid Organisations


Busting Silos

How does automation influence our behaviour?

Shared Consciousness, Smart Autonomy, Strategic Alignment, and Empowered Execution

Useful Videos:

Antifragile – Nassim Nicholas Taleb_(360p).mp4

Building a Vital Team–Dr. Liane Davey

Chris Fussell and General Stan McChrystal discuss ONE MISSION – YouTube

Cleveland Clinic’s Model of Integrated Healthcare – YouTube

Cooperative Principles_ More important now than ever – YouTube

Don’t Let ‘The Silo Effect’ Disrupt Your Organization – YouTube

How do we learn to work with intelligent machines? | Matt Beane – YouTube

Innovation Uncensored 2012 – General (Ret.) Stanley McChrystal – YouTube

Nicholas Carr, The Glass Cage_ Automation and Us

Scott Berkun, The Year Without Pants _ Talks at Google

Key Resources:

Bolden, Richard, Jonathan Gosling, Beverley Hawkins, and Scott Taylor (2011). Exploring Leadership: Individual, Organisational, and Societal Perspectives. Oxford University Press.

Burken, Scott (2013). The Year Without Pants. Jossey-Bass, Kindle Edition.

Carr, Nicholas (2014). The Glass Cage: Automation and Us. Brilliance Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Davey, Liane (2013). You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get along, and Get Stuff Done. Wiley, Kindle Edition.

Dosch, Vern (2015). Wired Differently. Makoche Studios, Audiobook Edition.

Fussell, Chris and Charles Goodyear (2017). One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams. Macmillan, Kindle Edition.

McChrystal, Stanley, David Silverman, Tantum Collins, and Chris Fussell (2016). Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. Penguin, Kindle Edition.

Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2012). Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder. Penguin Kindle Edition.

Tett, Gillian (2015). The Silo Effect: Why putting everything in its place isn’t such a bright idea. Audible, Audiobook Edition.

Conscious Capitalism

Key Concepts:

Doing well while doing good

Stakeholder Relationship Management

Servant Leadership

Deep Thinking: Humans and Machines

Useful Videos:

Don’t fear intelligent machines. Work with them | Garry Kasparov – YouTube

Findings Video Extra – Vic Strecher_ Talking On Purpose

Job Crafting – Amy Wrzesniewski on creating meaning in your own work

Jordan Peterson’s guide to leadership – YouTube

Raj Sisodia_ What does it mean to be a high-trust organization — and why is it so hard_

Reimagining Capitalism with Higher Consciousness_ Raj Sisodia at TEDxNewEngland

Satisfaction & Great Results Come With Servant Leadership

Stakeholder Theory

Key Resources:

Erixon, Fredrik and Bjorn Weigel (2017). The Innovation Illusion: How So Little Is Created by So Many Working So Hard. Vibrance Press, Audiobook Edition.

Freeman, R. Edward (2013). Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach. Cambridge University Press, Kindle Edition.

George, Bill and David Gergen (2015). Discover Your True North (2nd Edition). Jossey-Bass, Kindle Edition.

Greenleaf, Robert K. (2009). The Power of Servant Leadership. Audible Studios, Audiobook Edition.

Heinberg, Richard (2011). The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. Tantor Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Kasparov, Garry (2017). Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends and Human Creativity Begins. Hachette Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Levitt, Steven D. and Stephen J. Dubner (2014). Think Like a Freak: Secrets of the Rogue Economist. Penguin, Kindle Edition.

Mackey, John and Raj Sisodia (2014). Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business. Highbridge, Audiobook Edition.

Mueller, Jennifer (2016). Creative Change: Why We Resist It … How We Can Embrace It. Brilliance Audio, Audiobook Edition.

Sisodia, Raj and Jagdish N. Sheth (2014). Firms of Endearment: How World-Class Companies Profit from Passion and Purpose (2nd Edition). Pearson FT, Kindle Edition.

Strecher, Victor J. (2016). Life on Purpose. HarperAudio, Audiobook Edition.

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