Problem solving

Matt Bartel
Chief executive officer and founder
Digital Measures
Industry: Software
Employees: About 50

Working with more than 60 percent of the top 500 universities and a quarter-million faculty members demands innovation. Matt Bartel credits a company culture of critical thinking and creativity for Digital Measures’ success in transforming software for higher education.

“Many questions and issues spring up in the course of a day, and responding to them is typically both urgent and important. For this reason, as leaders we are wired to deal with them quickly. In doing so, though, we’re often tempted to address them without considering their larger context; to fight fires rather than solving underlying problems, preventing future flare-ups. By briefly stepping back and thinking about the bigger picture, leveraging systems thinking, isolated incidents become visible as opportunities for improvement and innovation.

“When things land on our plate at Digital Measures, we pause and ask, ‘Why is this coming up, and what would have prevented it?’ It’s helpful to ask this often – in response to clear problems, but even just in response to questions posed by colleagues and clients. It’s also essential to immediately note the answers to these questions, as it’s hard to remember them in hindsight. We periodically set aside time to consult these notes, to consider underlying problems and areas for systematic improvements and think strategically about the development of new offerings and directions.

“Oftentimes, a single root issue causes what appear to be isolated incidents. Solving that issue using systems thinking eliminates future fires. It also highlights areas where we need to revise processes, training and documentation – enhancements we may not have otherwise realized we needed. This ultimately helps Digital Measures achieve our goals more efficiently and continuously improve.”

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