The Process In Detail

Every complex issue has multiple dimensions. Its resolution requires people to engage in an effective dialog and the exchange of information, experience and knowledge. Complexity Solutions language-based software tools provide effective support for the dialog and the development of new knowledge

To organize the group dialogue, we:

  • bring together a diverse group of people that have knowledge of all the principal dimensions of the issue;
  • establish and manage a high level discourse within the group;
  • use a combination of rules and techniques which ensure that everyone can contribute and no individual or small group can dominate the discussions;
  • use proprietary software to capture the language-based information produced by the group members (this is the type of information typically captured on flip charts in such meetings);
  • use the software to assist the group in performing an ongoing systematic analysis of captured information;
  • use the analysis of captured information to optimize the discussion process;
  • generate an influence map, which graphically represents the different parts of the issue and the flow of influence between these parts;
  • develop an understanding of the fundamental, underlying factors;
  • assist the group in establishing objectives for each fundamental factor;
  • define and structure the relationships between these objectives;
  • create an action plan to achieve each objective, using the Complexity Solutions software to assist the time-dependency structuring of the action plan.

Being able to recognize and reach a genuine consensus on the fundamental factors is the key to resolving the issue. Since 1990, Complexity Solutions has experimented with a variety of group techniques and has produced a combination of rules and strategies that allow for easy management of the dialogue.

The group process in total, including the structuring of the software interface that supports the dialogue, facilitates interaction within the group and ensures the emergence of new insights and the development of new knowledge.

With significant new insights into a complex issue, the group discovers possibilities that were not available to them previously. These new possibilities, based in a deep understanding of the issue, engender a ‘can-do’ mental attitude, where before there was often frustration and despair when faced with a seemingly impossible task. This combination of a positive attitude, new knowledge, and enthusiasm allows teams to achieve major breakthroughs.


Organizations are networks of people who generate and exchange information. Knowledge is created and progress is achieved when information is used in a way that creates understanding and makes the new information a part of daily experience.

Synplex is a software tool which supports the effective exchange, analysis, and use of information and the development of knowledge.

The principal use of Synplex is by a facilitator during group workshops. It provides the capability to capture, analyse, and structure the text-based information generated by the group.

The software presents the information as pairs of individual statements and asks a relationship question about possible influence between the two statements. An example would be:

“Our new product process doesn’t produce winning products”

“We constantly struggle to meet our financial targets”

The group discusses what they know about the two statements. When a significant majority of the group agree on either a YES or NO answer, the answer is entered into the computer. The computer analyses the new information in the context of all the information entered previously and presents another pairing for discussion.

The software uses the decisions made by the group to construct an influence map, which displays the information collected during the meeting in a graphic form of causal links between various aspects of the problem.

Influence Map

An influence map allows the group participants to see and understand how individual elements of the issue / problem set are influencing other elements.

The direction of influence between elements is indicated by the arrows in the maps shown below. The most fundamental issues / problems are those on the left. They influence those elements to which they are connected. Some of the nodes on the influence map contain multiple elements. These are grouping of elements where each element influences and is influenced by the others in the group i.e. there is a mutual cycle of influence.

The influence map is developed through the process of facilitated discourse and the emergence of a deep, shared understanding within the group. It allows the group to clearly identify the fundamental issues and focus attention on resolving them. It also helps the group to design effective, efficient action plans and optimize the allocation of resources.

Example of an Influence map for a model as viewed on the computer screen
Influence Map demonstrating how individual elements of the issue/problem set are influencing other elements.

Example of an Influence map for a model as a printed output
(a small part of a complete model)
Influence Map demonstrating how individual elements of the issue/problem set are influencing other elements.

Why Use Synplex?

There are many important aspects to every complex problem. The number of possible causal links grows extremely quickly with the number of the problem aspects. It is nearly impossible to constantly update a map of these links, adequately analyse it on-the-fly, and steer the discussion along the optimal route without using appropriate software.

Key Benefits

  • Only two pieces of information are presented at a time, keeping discussion focused;
  • Efficient analysis and structuring of information;
  • Communication and information sharing is easy; comfortable discussion framework plus detailed analysis of complex issues;
  • Optimization of the discussion: best questions are asked at every step;
  • Deep understanding of complex issues through discussion and graphic representation (influence map) allows for better resource allocation.