How To Solve Complex Problems?

Thanks for visiting The Harrison Center for Personal Development. The site is focused on how to improve people’s live through the creation of problems solving skills and decision science. Please explore our website and our many blog posts. Each page has something different to offer  the creative thinker who has a passion for ideas.  There are some ideas presented here that might be new to you and which may inspire your creativity.

Today’s blog l addresses the problem of intellectual elitism and arrogance In my work in applied game theory and problem solving I am often accused by academics of presenting complex ideas in excessively superficial and simplistic ways and  by my blog readers as presenting idea that are too hard to understand.

I am often asked when I teach seminars on Problem Solving how the type of coaching I offer is any different from what any life coach might offer.

There is a difference and it has to do with patterns. Most of us see problems or obstacles as “something” that is in our way or challenging. There is more to it than just this. I have learned that each problem has a pattern, a recurring theme of events or objects inherent in it. My experience over the years has taught me that exploring and learning to recognize these often subtle patterns can help one to solve complex problems.  The elements of a pattern will repeat in a predictable manner. Much of my work is based on the theories of architect Christopher Alexander. He calls his theory Pattern language.

Here is a segment of the Q & A session in one of my recent seminars on Applied Game Theory. You can read the rest of the session on today’s blog at

Q & A. on Pattern Language:

Q. Does the application of pattern language require great skill or training?

A. Advocates of this design approach claim that ordinary people of ordinary intelligence can use it to successfully solve very large, complex design problems.

Q. Why is it called a “pattern language”?

A. Like all languages, a pattern language has vocabularysyntax, and grammar. Unlike most languages pattern language can be  applied to the solving complex problems that are not related with communication.

Q. How do can an understanding of patterns and pattern language help us to solve problems?

A. When a skilled individual is designing something (whether it is a house or a computer program or a lamp), he/she must make many decisions about how to solve problems that will arise organically in the designing process.   By understanding patterns they can document a single problem with its typical place (the syntax), and use (the grammar) with the most common and recognized good solution. One can create a type of dictionary of these patterns. Each such entry is a single design pattern. Each pattern has a name, a descriptive entry, and some cross-references, much like a regular dictionary of words would. entry. A documented pattern should explain why that solution is good in the pattern’s contexts.

Q. Is there one best type of pattern language?

A. No However any pattern language has something in common with any spoken language, it has grammatical and semantic relationships. In order to make a an effectively communicated spoken language the patterns in the language must be related to each other. Patterns in problem structures are the same.

Q. Can you explain Christopher Alexander’s work in this area?

LEWIS:  He focuses on design problems but his approach can be applied to many problems especially related to “synergy”.

Q. What is synergy?

LEWIS: The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects. An example of a positive synergy would be when a large organization buys or absorbs a smaller company or organization and offers the smaller entity compensation in the form of future profits for benefits from the larger entity. This helps both groups achieve what they desire. Another example of synergy is seen when one two individuals have different strengths and weakness and each enables the other to achieve benefits they could not achieve alone.

It is the ability to understand how synergy works that gives one the key to solving complex problems.


Lewis Harrison is the founder and director of the Harrison Center for Personal Development. He is a radio talk show host, speaker, consultant, practical philosopher and Contemporary Spiritual Teacher. Lewis is a pioneer in the personal development movement The author of nine self help books on human potential he offers a monthly retreat/seminar “How to Solve Any Problem”.  He also and phone based coaching.   This blog is explored more fully through Lewis’ E-book “Everything You Need To Know About Solving Any Problem”. It is available for $7.00 and can be ordered directly from Lewis by calling him at 212-724-8782.

Listen to Lewis on the radio on his show “That Was Zen, This is Tao” Wednesday and Thursday 4-6 PM

Lewis speaks to companies and other organizations on stress management

Lewis also offers phone-based and on-line life coaching services and a monthly workshop/Retreat – a simple program for decision making based on Game Theory, the idea expanded on by John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning subject of the biopick “A Beautiful Mind”.

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