In search of wicked problems.

For any company the New Year usually means new hopes, dreams and business plans. In our case it also means the birth of a new company.

For the last nine months, we’ve been Zeus Jones San Francisco, a sibling of the agency founded in Minneapolis eight years ago. We’ve been lucky to have a corporate childhood that exceeded our hopes and allowed us to work with some brilliant clients, do things with a growing network of talented partners and attract some amazing people who shared our vision on what a modern creative company could be.

We’ve had an amazing period of incubation. We’ve learned lessons together we otherwise wouldn’t have. But our joint sense is we’ve evolved to the point where it is time for us to be a stand alone company, purpose built to address the needs of pioneering companies. So from this chrysalis, emerges a new company at the start of 2015. Chapter.

We chose the name Chapter as we felt it summed up the type of company we were trying to build. At its most human, a Chapter is a group of people in pursuit of a common goal. This spirit of togetherness, amongst its members and those they work with in pursuit of a common goal, is a defining characteristic of the company we are building, alongside our optimistic and pioneering perspective on the world that comes from being proudly Californian (as odd as that phrase may sound coming from two Brits and a Brooklyn-ite).

But more fundamentally, chapters define an era or phase in history. We are consciously trying to build a new breed of creative company, from the ground up, to better address the types of commercial creativity pioneering companies need today. Creativity that is defined by its impact it has, not the channel it is delivered in. Creativity that creates more delightful experiences between companies and people.

Our goal as a company is to solve the wicked problems facing pioneering businesses today.

For most companies, the easy problems have been solved. The systems and infrastructures to address them have been put in place. Yet problems still exist: problems that stop businesses from growing and reaching their full potential. These remaining problems are different. They’re called ‘wicked problems’.

Wicked problems emerge when businesses have to deal with something new or something that requires change. There is no consensus on what the root problem is or how to solve it. They are fundamentally different to other types of problems and, as a result, have to be approached differently.

To tame a wicked problem, you need to do three things. First, you have to begin the process with no predetermined bias about what the root problem, or its solution, is. You have to organize around the problem as you understand it, not a predetermined solution or channel. Second, as defining the problem and formulating the solution are essentially the same thing (you work out the problem you’re addressing as you solve it), you have to work in a series of short, focused sprints that inform one another rather than following a traditional, pre-determined waterfall approach. Third, you have to accept there is no singular, ‘right’ answer to a wicked problem, just better and poorer solutions. To get to a better solution, you need to keep an open mind, see the problem from every perspective and be inspired by the seemingly unusual. You have to let discussion and debate sit alongside data.

Wicked problems are the problems we increasingly see businesses face today in a world that is best characterized as complex, not simply complicated. We’re building a company from the ground up to work with pioneering businesses to help solve them (by whatever means necessary).

Gareth, Neil, Kap and the rest of the team at Chapter.