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Solving Complex Problems

The challenges facing the electricity sector are highly complex and cannot be accurately characterized as technical or economic. It is clear that key issues are also related to the social, institutional, and regulatory context. It is also apparent that the different stakeholders in the sector only see a part of the overall system, and therefore only see a sub-set of potential solutions. Developing effective and system-wide solutions in such complex setting requires a different set of approaches that take into account the interconnected nature of the issues. Accelerating innovation will require new types of engagement, collaboration and innovation across traditional institutional and sectoral boundaries.

eLab has been specifically designed to explore the complex challenges facing the electricity sector. Firstly, it brings together a uniquely diverse set of leaders and decision makers across the electricity system - that together have the potential to see and understand both the challenges and potential solutions in a more holistic and system-wide way. Secondly, eLab creates the space to build capacity and foster innovation - creating opportunities for experiences and ideas to cross-fertilize. Lastly eLab provides support to fledgling ideas, innovations and partnerships so they can be tested and scaled within the sector.

Transforming the electricity system is not simple, and will take more than techno-economic solutions. Electricity is the ultimate "complex problem," requiring simultaneous action on three fronts* :

Type of Complexity


Approach for challenges of low complexity

Approach for challenges of high complexity

Process requirements for high complexity

Dynamic Cause and effect are far apart and interdependant
Piece by piece
System as a whole
Social Actors have diverse perspectives and interests Experts and authorities
Stakeholders Participative
Generative Future is unfamiliar and undetermined Existing practice Emerging practice Creative

* Source: Kahane after Scharmer and Senge

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