Interview with Trudi McCanna: Better problem solving through technology

Trudi McCanna, Head of Executive Development at Google

Trudi McCanna, Head of Executive Development at Google

AMT Lab recently had the pleasure of sitting down to talk with Trudi McCanna, Head of Executive Development at Google. A graduate of the MAM program who has taken her skills from the world of the arts into the world of technology, she had some interesting perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing arts organizations. Due to her experience training leaders throughout Google, she’s also no stranger to helping people solve difficult problems. She finds it helpful to frame problems within two categories:

Technical Problems – These problems are relatively easy to identify and can be solved by a specialized expert. Trudi’s example of a basic technical problem is a broken arm.  The problem is clear—the arm is broken—and the solution is straightforward—have a doctor fix it.

Adaptive Challenges – These challenges are difficult to articulate and typically lack a clear solution. Where an expertise can be used to solve technical problem, adaptive challenges require experimental problem solving. Often, the people facing the problem must also be the ones who figure out how to solve it. Trudi’s example of an adaptive challenge is adopting a healthier lifestyle. Though a doctor might be able to advise an individual on which changes to make, ultimately the individual facing the challenge must experiment with potential solutions and implement that change.

A major pitfall for organizations of all types is confusing these two sorts of challenges.  Arts leaders are accustomed to facing many adaptive challenges in the production of our work, but we seldom think of the emergent issues accompanying incorporation of new technology. Conversely, as we become accustomed to inefficient daily practices, we might not think of the technological solutions to our technical problems, such as customer relationship tracking or targeted marketing.

In the full interview, Trudi also reflects on the non-hierarchical working structure of Google, a model that poses interesting opportunities for arts organizations. If you’d like to learn more, click below to listen to the piece. Please feel free to share in the comments section if you have additional questions you’d like us to pose to Trudi.