246: Charles Conn: You can easily take apart almost any problem


Charles Conn Show Notes Page

Charles Conn used a really simple tool to solve the problems for a company with thousands of employees. It was this humble beginning which now finds Charles on a quest to solve the problems of the world.

Charles Conn was born in Phoenix Arizona to half Canadian, half American parents, more naturally based in Massachusetts where his dad had done his college education at MIT, and to which they returned when Charles was only 6 months old.

Charles was raised in Cambridge and Concord and a little town up on the New Hampshire border called Dunstable. Charles has a brother born 2 years after him. His parents divorced at 10, after which Charles’s mother went to art school and married her professor…which ensured a strange mix of engineering problem solving and artistic creativity as fundamental influences on his young life.

With an MIT engineer as a father and art professor mother and step father, Charles had dueling influences of analytic problem solving and more creative approaches as a backdrop to learning. This eventually led to a career as a partner of McKinsey, the consulting firm, but always with a focus on creative problem solving.

Charles then caught the internet bug early and moved like some erstwhile Beverley Hillbilly from Sydney to Los Angeles to lead a tech startup, Ticketmaster-Citysearch, that eventually successfully IPO’ed.  After that he returned to an early love of biology working with Intel-founder Gordon Moore in starting his new foundation dedicated to science-based conservation, where he learned that the problem solving technologies he helped develop at McKinsey scaled to environment level problems.

After this he led a turnaround at the Rhodes Trust in Oxford (returning him to his graduate school roots), where he developed a novel approach to leadership development for Rhodes Scholars and raised funds to right the Trust financially. While at the Rhodes Trust he and his former McKinsey colleague Rob McLean finally put pen to paper and wrote up their lives’ work, Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill that Changes Everything.

And finally, Charles is now applying his problem-solving models to deep science, working as CEO of Oxford Sciences Innovation, the £600m venture firm founded in partnership with Oxford to develop its advanced technology ideas.

Charles is most proud to have helped develop the problem solving and leadership capabilities of hundreds of incredibly talented young people across many spheres who will no doubt do a better job than his generation at saving the planet.

Charles lives in lots of places: His day job has him based in Oxford England, but he commutes to Stockholm part of the year where his partner Camilla Borg lives. He keeps a foot hold in Sun Valley Idaho, where he owns a ranch, and Los Angeles. Charles’s partner is Camilla Borg, a Swede with skills in design and marketing. He has three grown children from a previous marriage.

Quotes and Mentions

Listen to Charles Conn, CEO of @OSI_Updates to get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShowClick to Tweet

“The great lesson of problem solving is, you can use a single technique for taking apart almost any kind of problem.” – Click to Tweet

“Our industries are being transformed in ways that would entirely foreign to our parents’ generation.” – Click to Tweet

“Traditional industries are being transformed at faster rates than has ever been true before.” – Click to Tweet

“The most critical thing now is, can you learn new things and can you solve problems in any sphere.” – Click to Tweet

“People need to be good at fluidly addressing problems in the workforce with small teams.” – Click to Tweet

“What we’re going to be rewarded for in the future is not some old body of knowledge you learned in the past.” – Click to Tweet

“It’s not what you knew before, it’s your ability to quickly mobilize with colleagues to solve problems as they arise.” – Click to Tweet

“People often surge of into problem solving without really thinking about what problem they’re trying to solve.” – Click to Tweet

“Most people don’t think hard about the problems before they run off and start building models.” – Click to Tweet

“People leave problems that are too lumpy and therefore they look unsolvable.” – Click to Tweet

“Even the most brilliant people fail to link their analytic findings to a really compelling story for why someone would change what they’re doing.” – Click to Tweet

“Problem Solving is always the answer to the question, what should I do?” – Click to Tweet

“How to you connect people’s brains with their feet in a way that’s compelling, that’s storytelling.” – Click to Tweet

“The more open problems are the more creative we can be.” – Click to Tweet

“There’s so much debate in the public square where people are just speaking past each other.” – Click to Tweet

“How do you show problems in a way where the solution becomes visual.” – Click to Tweet

“Don’t get it right, just get started.” – Click to Tweet

“You should make each incremental decision as a new decision.” – Click to Tweet

“Our human cognitive biases trip us up when we try to problem solve.” – Click to Tweet

Hump to Get Over

Charles Conn used a really simple tool to solve the problems for a company with thousands of employees. It was this humble beginning which now finds Charles on a quest to solve the problems of the world.

Advice for others

Be entirely present instead of being focused on the future.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

Negative images of self

Best Leadership Advice


Secret to Success

I wake up early and get to interact with myself before anybody else.

Best tools in business or life

I dis-aggregate every problem using logic trees.

Recommended Reading

Bulletproof Problem Solving: The One Skill That Changes Everything

The Selfish Gene: 40th Anniversary Edition (Oxford Landmark Science)

Contacting Charles Conn

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/charles-conn-5008904/

Website: https://bulletproofproblemsolving.com/

Resources and Show Mentions

Call Center Coach

An Even Better Place to Work

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