Understanding and Solving Complex Business Problems

A CBS Executive Education Masterclass

Team pointing at notes on a clear board

Houston, we have a problem!

We are living in an era of unprecedented complexity and interconnectedness. Some decisions we make might be so routine that we may make them without giving them much thought, but challenging or complex decisions demand much more consideration.

It takes practice to recognise complex systems, and the challenges that come with embracing the unknown and facing novel situations that have many variables, with no one right answer. These are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environments, and they present unique challenges and opportunities for professionals and their teams.

How do you make effective decisions amidst:

  • Multiple and, at times, competing factors in play
  • Gaps in information or data
  • New situations
  • No single right answer
  • High stakes and big consequences
  • Stakeholder-rich environments

Don’t despair – our masterclass in Understanding and Solving Complex Business Problems will provide evidence-based approaches to clearly identify the problem at hand and help participants apply effective decision making in VUCA environments.

Program details

If you are interested in attending this session, please submit an expression of interest to our team.

Date: Wednesday 15 September 2021

Time: 9:00am – 4:30pm AWST

Where: 137 St Georges Terrace, Perth 6000


Early-bird registration (pay by 1 Sept): $529

General: $599

Curtin alumni, current students and staff: $559

Group registration (five or more): $529 per person

Learning Outcomes

This masterclass aims to provide participants with:

  • A better understanding of the forms of complexity and some methods for managing them
  • An appreciation of how complex problems differ from difficult problems and some approaches specifically designed to address these messy, wicked problems
  • An understanding and hands-on experience of an approach which takes a systems thinking perspective and thus allows for deeper and holistic understanding of the situation as well as assisting with the identification and assessment of options
  • An opportunity to work on a current complex problem

Who is the program for?

This program is designed for those in public, not-for-profit and private organisations who have decision-making responsibility and who are looking for fresh ideas to resolve organisational problems. You might be in project management, a COO, operations, marketing, innovation, strategy, product development, CEO, MD or a Board Member. This program provides participants with tools and techniques that are easily adopted and implemented into organisational practice.

Program schedule

9:00am-10:30am AWSTIntroduction
Understanding forms of complexity - what makes your problem complex?
Methods for dealing with complexity
Professor Fran Ackermann
10:30am-11am AWSTNetworking morning tea
11am-12:30pm AWSTComplex problems vs difficult problems - is there a right answer?
Exploring problem structuring methods
Professor Fran Ackermann
12:30pm - 1:15pm AWSTLunch
1:15pm - 2:45pm AWSTTaking a Systems Thinking Approach - using a mapping technique to manage complexity rather than reduce it
(This provides participants with the opportunity to use the technique on a complex problem)
Professor Fran Ackermann
2:45pm - 3:15pm AWSTNetworking afternoon tea
3:15pm - 4:30pm AWSTUnderstanding dynamics and counter intuitive outcomes
A brief consideration of 'why decisions fail'
Professor Fran Ackermann


Recommended reading

  • Why Decisions Fail. Paul Nutt (2002). San Francisco CA, Barrett-Koehler
  • ‘What’s the problem? An introduction to problem structuring methods’. Jonathan Rosenhead (1996). Interfaces, 26 (6) 117-131


Credit for Recognised Learning 

When you complete this course, you can choose to study further, and may be eligible to receive up to 5 credit points towards Curtin’s flagship MBA Programs.

Registrations are now open

Please contact us if you have any further questions about the program:
Tel: +61 8 9266 4555
E-mail: execed@curtin.edu.au