In the early days of my career, I worked as a waitress. This is not always an easy job, but nor is it a complex one. A guest ordered a pizza from the menu. I gave the cooks the order, they made it, and I delivered it to the guest. There is not a great deal of complexity in this process though I could never manage to tell the difference between all-dressed and supremes and house specials! It was a very linear transaction. As we grow within our jobs and professions, often we are called on to make more complex decisions. Our ability to do so is a key factor in building a successful career, as well as contributing to the success of the organization.
Complex reasoning deals with the breadth and depth of the variables that one would take into consideration in a decision-making process. In contrast to linear thinking, in which one goes from “problem” to “solution” along a very straight path, complex reasoning takes twists and turns and poses various obstacles before a potential solution can be reached. I might, for instance, have to figure out how I’m going to pitch my idea to design a new mentorship program to my colleagues on the design team. I have to think about where they are coming from, what is important to them, and how I am going to win them over. It is a more involved, convoluted process.
It becomes even more complex when I want to take that program and pitch it to an organization. I have to think about what is going on in that organization, what their business strategy is, what their pressure points are, how they make decisions, how the program will help them, and other considerations. There is a shift in the complexity of the reasoning that I must go through. The decision-making process takes much more time and careful consideration.
The ability to go through this process and make sound decisions is an important factor in one’s career success and is also a key element in an organization’s succession planning process. In assessing decision abilities, we take people through a narrative assessment process to look at their current level of complex reasoning ability. Then we project, based on how they have developed since the beginning of their careers, what their career complexity looks like. Then we can look at what kinds of support and development will help individuals grow over time and utilize their abilities to advance their own careers and to become better leaders within the organization.
Determining the complex reasoning capabilities of employees is vital so the organization can ensure it has the talent it needs at the right time. The ability to make decisions on an escalating scale of difficulty is paramount in tomorrow’s leaders, and these skills and capacities need to be nurtured and developed today.