Jan 30, 2019
Tom Higley is
the business of creating market-based solutions to the world’s
wicked problems. A Denver-based entrepreneur and mentor, Tom has
founded and run seven tech startups and is a mentor to hundreds of
founders and CEO’s. Today, he joins Jim and Jan to discuss his
founding of 10.10.10 - which brings together 10 wicked
problems, and 10 prospective CEOs together for 10 days. He defines
wicked problems, and how they relate to complex adaptive
shares concrete examples of solutions that arose from 10.10.10, and
his advice for young entrepreneurs looking to make an impact that
connects them with a personal mission.
[4:05] Wicked problems live in
context of complex adaptive systems, and the system doesn’t
typically support the solution. Examples of wicked problems could
be homelessness, climate change, and medical error. The solutions
must be derived through independent intervention.
[8:22] In a complex adaptive
system, we see that the systems have a purpose. To the extent that
the wicked problem is misaligned with that goal, it is difficult to
effect a change. This is why it’s so important to understand the
system context of a wicked problem.
[11:16] In the process, we must
first understand the frame of reference for where the problem
occurs. Second, we must understand the notion of diversity in terms
of perspective and opinions. Tom refers to this as, “listen and
learn, leverage and launch.”
[13:56] After we can map out the
interrelationships by the rules set in place, and become aware of
the diverse opinions due to varying life experience and
perspective, we can then begin the stage of convergence.
[18:31] Tom’s team is
hand-picked, and they must be able to articulate a vision both
internally and externally, attract and retain top talent, and
secure the necessary resources and capital. He looks for those that
are open to investing themselves into the venture, and open to
listening and learning with founder due diligence.
[20:48] Founder opportunity fit
is very important. It may be a great business opportunity, but you
also must like and care about the customer, and the problem must
have meaning to you.
[26:00] Economic growth does
relieve some of the pressure in solving problems, but
sustainability and stewardship of environment, life, and community
is just as powerful.
[29:12] Tom speaks of the
10.10.10 project where the focus was on water and infrastructure
and how Ari Kaufman created a specific solution that delivers
impact by coming up with the ability to test tap water in real
[34:58] A silo is good for
internal excellence, but it is also vital to draw others in that
understand the implications of success or failure. At 10.10.10,
they invite both new players to the sector, along with those who
have expertise and knowledge in the specific wicked
[36:33] We need more voices
connected to the pain of the wicked problem to speak up. This
creates empathy and connection.
[39:44] Great leaders must also
stay in line with the narrative or story of the company, while
adapting to the fast-paced and disruptive technology.
[46:25] Each of Tom’s mentees
are unique, with individual problems and capabilities that we be
discovered through reflection and asking the right
[49:54] Gravitate towards people
that help you learn how to think, instead of what to
[51:27] Tom’s challenge:
Think about the thing that needs you, and that you can
contribute to in a particularly powerful way.
- “In a
wicked problem, you don’t have the right to be wrong.”
not just the opinion I have, it’s how I understand the
about economic opportunity, but it’s also about creativity, and
have to be open to the listen and learn the process.”
- “There aren’t silo’s, there are cylinders of
learn as much from those I mentor as they learn from
- “What’s the thing that should be done, and
won’t be done unless you do it?”
Dilemmas in a General Theory of
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