Thought Leadership

The Human Machine: The 'Lazy' Problem Solver

I’ve worked in project delivery most of my career, and through both education and my professional experiences, I have always recognised that knowledge, process, and training are cornerstones in helping people gain the confidence to apply, use, and tailor processes, which improves delivery confidence and reduces the residual risk of failure.

In my work at Method Grid, I help clients develop and embed standardised ways of working. It often surprises clients when I introduce the concept of the ‘lazy’ problem solver. However, once explained, it often leads to a moment of realisation and a shift in thinking for leaders.

Although I’m not a psychologist, psychology plays a key role in designing solutions for clients. In this short paper, I will share why our traditional approaches to knowledge and process often work against the human machine.

The ‘Lazy’ Problem Solver

Humans are Lazy

Our minds are hardwired to find the path of least resistance to achieve an outcome. Bill Gates encapsulates this idea well:

“I always give the hardest challenges to the laziest person because they will find the quickest path to the outcome.”

In reality, our minds constantly seek the easiest path. We love innovations that make our lives easier, like AI, Uber, and remote work. This inherent laziness is a fantastic human quality that drives innovation and creativity, propelling society forward.

The Problem Solver

Research by Daniel H. Pink identified that humans have a natural motivation to solve problems, create solutions, and learn new skills. This intrinsic motivation often surpasses external incentives like money. For example, highly skilled developers often spend their evenings and weekends building open-source software, even when they are employed full-time, because they are motivated by the challenges and problems they find stimulating.

Designing Solutions for the Human Machine

When designing solutions to help teams navigate complex processes consistently and compliantly, consider the following points:

Humans are Lazy

When implementing processes and standards, think about how to make them as easy as possible for people to follow. Avoid relying solely on traditional tools like SharePoint, PowerPoint, and PDFs. People will naturally look for ways to bypass anything that seems cumbersome to achieve the desired outcome more efficiently. This is why many process maps and knowledge articles go unused and why there is a heavy reliance and need for controls and assurance mechanisms.

Cognitive Load

It is unrealistic to expect knowledge workers to remember all the details of where things are, who to speak to, and what the processes are. Disconnecting knowledge from delivery creates opportunities for inefficiency. Knowledge should be closely integrated with process execution to ensure it remains an asset through continuous use, improvement and refinement.

Humans Want to Solve Complex Problems

People have an inherent desire to solve problems and be creators of change. When they design, tailor, and solve problems, they become invested in the solutions they create. Contrary to the belief that humans dislike change, they actually embrace it when they are the initiators of that change.

Method Grid and the Lazy Problem Solver

This understanding drives us to create tools and solutions that align with this intrinsic human quality, making it easier for teams to navigate complex processes efficiently and effectively. Here’s how:

Knowledge and Process Integration

Recognising that if knowledge and process delivery are disconnected, most knowledge will become underutilised due to the natural tendency to seek the path of least resistance.

Adaptability to Complex Processes

Understanding that complex processes do not fit well in static solutions. Teams need the ability to tailor and adapt processes to meet dynamic and changing environments. This is why we developed the playbook concept, enabling teams to work with stakeholders and clients to find the path of least resistance.

Integrated Controls and Assurance

Adding controls, evidence, and assurance to the process helps build an integrated line of defence, setting boundaries on the path of least resistance.

Regardless of whether Method Grid is the best solution fit for your consistency or ‘reinventing the wheel’ challenges, my advice is to always design ways of working that cater to the needs of the ‘lazy’ problem solver.

 

Connect with the writer of this article, The Human Machine: The ‘Lazy’ Problem Solver, Method Grid Head of Professional Services Pip Morpeth on LinkedIn.


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