• Dr Marisa

Problem Solving? Don’t Forget Your TOP!

During a recent business discussion, I was reminded of the importance of multiple perspectives – the need to consider perspectives beyond the individual - especially for organisations faced with managing significant problems and making critical decisions. Enter Harold Linstone’s ‘TOP’ approach.

Harold Linstone was a German-American mathematician, consultant, futurist and University Professor Emeritus of Systems Science at Portland State University. His approach to problem solving was based on the view that complex problems include a range of different individuals, organisations and individuals which view the same problem differently. And these views should be considered in an organisation’s approach to key decision-making and problem solving.

So, what exactly is TOP?

TOP is a framework – a way of thinking - to encourage us to consider multiple perspectives as we work to solve complex organisational problems. Let me give you a very abridged outline:

T – represents the technical/analytical/ perspective of the problem/challenge. Concerned and focused on the product/service.

O - represents the organisational/institutional perspective. Concerned with looking at the problem from the viewpoint of the affected and affecting organisations, including processes, organisational cultures and beliefs.

P – represents the personal/individual perspective. Concerned with the motivations and drivers of key individuals/influencers.

By considering the different and powerful insights that each perspective can provide, organisations can improve their decision-making and problem-solving mindset. And better decisions lead to better outcomes – which is what we all want.

Disclaimer: There is an abundance of literature that describes TOP in detail – just search ‘Harold Linstone.’ This summary is not designed to diminish the body of work of Linstone and others in this field, but rather draw out a key takeaway for the business practitioner:

That insight is impact, and impact is insight.

So, the richer the insights, the more impactful the decisions one makes!

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