Why Is It Difficult To Understand Complex Problems?

A good friend and a long term client of mine asked me the following questions:

1) Why difficult, repetitive or nagging problems cannot be understood or solved by conventional/traditional problem solving methods & approaches?

2) Why innovation and new methodologies are required to solve or engage with chronic or nagging problems?

3) Why many fail to analyze incipient faults in most cases?

To which, I replied :-


Chronic or nagging or repetitive problems are actually called complex problems.

These types of problems fall under a new science called Complexity Science. More specifically, they fall under the domain of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS), or as we lovingly call it – Complex Creative Systems.

Such class of complex problems differ from regular problems in the following ways:

1. The system has many diverse elements.

2. The elements are interdependent on each other for functioning of the system.

3. The elements dynamically interact with each other to produce new states.

4. The dynamics is non-linear in nature.

5. Under constraints and environmental stimuli, such systems continually try to adapt/create new states but creation  of a new state depends on rate of change of entropy and its exchange.

It is not possible to solve problems of complex systems by regular or traditional problem solving methods since:

1. Traditional methods overlook the five factors of complexity as mentioned above.

2.  Traditional methods try to single out one cause for a problem. That is, for every specific symptom they try to find a specific cause or element responsible for the symptom. It means that traditional methods treat each element separately and try to establish a relationship between an element to the symptom. This is hardly consistent with the dynamic behavior of complex systems where many elements or causes come together to produce specific symptoms.

3. Traditional problem solving approaches are based on linearity. Hence complex non-linear problems cannot be addressed by such linear methods.

4. Traditional problem solving depends on established patterns only. Problems are solved using pattern recognition. So traditional problem solving depends on having a grasp of well established patterns presented in  form of comprehensible knowledge, which is available in public domain. However, complex systems and their problems have both patterns and “no patterns.” “No pattern” means existence of new patterns that have not been seen earlier. Therefore, to solve complex problems requires creation of new knowledge to address the emergence of “no pattern.” Creating new knowledge is a difficult task. And the process of creating new knowledge, under constraints of time and resources, is not available. There is a gap. Hence most find it difficult to tackle complex problems and issues.

Keeping this in mind, our Institute, NIASK, has come up with a process or common code called Nemetics that might be applied to any complex domain. The code may be described as follows:

1. Notice the dynamic changes in a system

2. Engage with the flow

3. Mull (think and imagine) the interactions that produce the changes. 

4. Exchange creative actions that allow the system to function more smoothly of freely with the minimum wastage of energy.

Nemetics combines the principles of dialectics, non-linear dynamics, thermodynamics, chaos theory, systems theories and personal development to come up with its unique approach and knowledge to understand and take on complex problems and issues.

Hope this answers your questions.



Engaging with Love

How can one engage with anything without love?

How can one engage with love without understanding?

How can one engage with understanding without learning?

How can one engage with learning without questions?

How can one engage with questions without concentration?

How can one engage with concentration without “seeing?”

How can one engage with “seeing” without imagination?

How can one engage with imagination without inspiration?

How can one engage with inspiration without embracing the vastness of relatedness arising out of nothing?


Human communication through words – both written and spoken, gestures, symbols, pictures, music, signals and actions are both incomplete and imperfect.

All these may be misrepresented, misinterpreted, wrongly perceived, misunderstood and miscommunicated.

“The map is not the territory.” — Alfred Korzybski

Communication is the map but not the territory.

Two persons never quite “see” the same though they may be seeing the same thing or hearing the same speech or reading the same document or book.

There is nothing objective in communication.

We might say things, which we don’t mean.

Our action might not match our intention.

We might keep our desires secret from others.

Communicators and their recipients are perpetually trapped by their subjectivity shaped by their memories, experiences, beliefs, desires, hope, faith, values, judgements, egos, culture, economies, learning, intentions and perceptions.

Various shades of ambiguity and complexity color any communication. Nothing can ever be “crystal clear.”

Misunderstanding is bound to happen — the impact of which may be rather devastating.

It is almost impossible to avoid human communication. However, we may only reduce the impact by not attaching great importance to the ever limited nature of communication of which silence and noise are also integral parts of the whole field of communication.

Science and Art of Problem Solving

Science and art are the head and tail of the same coin when it comes to solving real life problems.

With science, we search for similarities of things that appear different. We focus on linearities and direct connections between causes and effects.

With art, we search for differences among things that are apparently similar. We focus on non-linearities and intricate connections between causes and effects.

To solve real life problems we need to be skilled in both science and art. This is because situation governing every problem is unique. That is why most real life problems are complex in nature.

Seen realistically, solving real problems puts science and art together again. Actually, they were never born apart.

Taken together; they lead us to truth.

Something more on Science and Art:

Problem Solving Mind

“I don’t know” attitude is a healthy attitude to maintain in problem solving.

The idea is : though we don’t know the solution the solution is already hidden in the problem. We just have to find it.

There are three basic approaches to solving problems, which are as follows:

1. If you start out intuitively you need analytical thinking to confirm your learning.

2. If you start out analytically then you need intuition to tell you “what next?”

3. If you start out with imagination then you need a prototype to confirm your understanding.

About Thinking

We are not quite sure where thoughts come from.

Possibly they arise from the numerous interactions of our daily living.

Whatever it might be it seems thinking is a behavior.

But thinking or our consciousness does not change until two things happen.

1. Something concrete has to happen from which one can experience the learning. In this way one’s consciousness is changed through an event.

2. The other way is to use imagination to learn about something; create a change and based on the feedback change one’s consciousness.

Taleb on Failures and Problems.

On 17th Jan 2015, Nassim Nicholas Taleb was in New Delhi. These are some extracts from his speech delivered in the Airtel and The Economic Times Business Summit.

1. The only asset of a country is failure and knowing how to fail is it’s biggest talent. That should be the mantra for success for India.

2. Higher the failure rate in a country the better the economy, which is why the French aren’t doing as well, the Japanese is not doing well. Within the US the highest failure rate is in California. I would recommend a culture of failure that the Japanese don’t have.

3. There are businesses which improve only through problems. Restaurant business is one such case. Restaurants survive through stressors and improve through stressors. It’s the same for transportation. From the Titanic to today, transportation has become safer by over compensating after a tragedy.

4. Every time a plane crashes, guess what happens. The probability of the next crash drops. Same can’t be said of banking in the US or Europe. If you read in the paper that a bank crashed today, guess what? The probability of a bank crashing tomorrow increases. That is not a good business. It is not a business that learns from disorder.

5. Many businesses thrive because problems exist and if you don’t have fluctuations bad companies accumulate, with lots of load on their books.

6. Small is beautiful and more efficient. It’d be better to build 1000 schools than an university.

7. Extreme comfort is bad. You need to shock your system once a while.

Source: Times of India, Kolkata Edition, 18th January 2015.

Note: Taleb  is an essayist, statistician, risk analyst and author of the highly acclaimed book Black Swan.

Another Response of a Reader of my book Powerofsee

 This is a letter I received this morning from a friend and business associate after he went through my book — Winning Anywhere — the Power of See :


I enjoyed, engrossed, contemplated and  in the process lost in thoughts after going thru first few chapters of your book power of see ….

I was not moving as quickly as  thru words , lines and pages of your book , and that is the time started noticing  what was in it and what it means and got deeply engaged … Yet to mull and exchange ..

Thank you for gifting it .. In knowingly or subconsciously  or both I was doing it some times in some areas on some encounters ..may not be that deep…that structured .. That detailed … That focus …

I am thanking God this morning for giving such great friend and business associate…

observe thing with calm mind ! Essence of the fist few chapters 

Thank you For introducing NEME.




Myths about Solving Problems

1. Problems can be predicted.

Nothing can be predicted. Problems can only be seen once they manifest.

2. There is a root cause for every problem.

Usually many causes come together to form a problem.

3. Once we fix à cause a problem is eliminated.

Unless we change the interactions within a system problems tend to reappear.