Arnaud Chevallier

Professor of Strategy

Arnaud Chevallier is Professor of Strategy. He helps executives solve complex problems and make better decisions under uncertainty. His research, teaching and consulting draw on empirical findings from diverse disciplines to provide concrete tools that prepare executives to manage the strategic challenges they face in today’s dynamic global marketplace.

In his view, effective problem solvers are T-shaped; they are both generalists and specialists, combining depth and breadth of knowledge.   Although traditional education and training can cultivate specialist skills, they pay much less attention to the acquisition of generalist skills, including strategic thinking. Executives can use Chevallier’s tools to improve on the breadth dimension.

His books include the 2016 title Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving, and Solvable: A Simple Solution to Complex Problems, co-authored with Albrecht Enders. This book synthesizes the strategic thinking needed for complex problem solving into a simple three-step process: frame, explore, decide. It also shows practitioners how to follow these steps using highly applicable, concrete tools.

Facing a complex situation, it’s easy to fall into one of two pitfalls: jumping straight to a solution or letting the complexity of the problem paralyze us. Both are suboptimal. Solving a problem too quickly might involve missing better opportunities or costly reworks; getting paralyzed might mean that the problem snowballs into an uncontrollable one.

Chevallier has helped numerous organizations to identify breakthrough solutions to complex problems including Shell, SAP, Lenovo, Cisco, Novo Nordisk, Statkraft, and the United Nations. He recently helped the International Committee of the Red Cross identify innovative funding sources and assisted Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in its drive to have greater impact. He also helped Swiss company Agathon to make decisions under high uncertainty during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and supported Tetra Pak in improving its decision-making processes through the optimal engagement of stakeholders.

At IMD, he is Director of the Global Management Foundations (GMF) program and the Master of Science in Sustainable Management and Technology (SMT) program offered jointly by IMD, the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and the University of Lausanne. He is also Co-Director of IMD’s Complex Problem Solving (CPS) program.

Before joining IMD in 2018, Chevallier served as Associate Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Rice University in Houston, Texas, where he taught strategic thinking in the School of Engineering. He was previously Graduate Dean of the University of Monterrey in Mexico, teaching engineering and business. He trained in mechanical engineering and his PhD from Rice University focused on nonlinear stochastic mechanics. He then worked in Accenture’s strategy and business architecture division before joining academia.

Selected publications
Book
Solvable: A simple solution to complex problems
Problem solving skills are in high demand, yet we’re not taught how to develop and apply these skills appropriately. Solvable offers a simple solution with a 3-step process—Frame, Explore, Decide—a...
Published 18 June 2022
Book
Strategic thinking in complex problem solving
Whether you are a student or a working professional, you can benefit from being better at solving the complex problems that come up in your life. Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving provi...
Published 1 January 2016
Academic publications
Book
Solvable: A simple solution to complex problems
Problem solving skills are in high demand, yet we’re not taught how to develop and apply these skills appropriately. Solvable offers a simple solution with a 3-step process—Frame, Explore, Decide—a...
Published 18 June 2022
Insight for Executives
Article
Préparer la prochaine génération de leaders aux crises de demain
A few years ago, one of us helped redesign the undergraduate curriculum at our university. One of the main goals was to make students more ethical citizens. Soon, the idea of offering a simple ethi...
Published 2 November 2022
In uncertain times, it pays to keep your options open
Article
In uncertain times, it pays to keep your options open
A series of global shocks has made effective decision making incredibly difficult. Our experts offer three practical steps to get the balance right.
Published 16 June 2022
How to strategize your way out of complex problems
Article
How to strategize your way out of complex problems
In Solvable, Arnaud Chevallier and Albrecht Enders have developed a three-step process for complex problem solving: frame, explore and decide.
Published 10 June 2022
There is no one-size-fits-all way to solving problems. Here’s how to tailor your approach
Video
There is no one-size-fits-all way to solving problems. Here’s how to tailor your approach
Solving problems is more about the process than the outcome, say Professors Albrecht Enders and Arnaud Chevallier
Published 10 June 2021
The four types of questions leaders should be asking
Video
The four types of questions leaders should be asking
As leaders progress through their organizations, they face a problem as old as the Socratic paradox: they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s an easy trap to fall into because strong leaders ask ...
Published 7 May 2021
Agile decision-making – deciding when you don’t have all the facts
Video
Agile decision-making – deciding when you don’t have all the facts
Webinar with Professor Arnaud Chevallier
Published 25 September 2020
Article
How to use maps to solve complex problems
Facing a complex challenge, it’s tempting to pursue whichever option we first identify and start implementing it quickly. But relying on this kind of intuitive thinking, particularly in unpredictab...
Published 9 February 2020
Article
Use the SCQ rules quick reference sheet
Facing a complex problem, a critical task is to actively drive structure into it. One way to do this is to frame the problem using a situation-complication-question (SCQ) sequence. A SCQ is a great...
Published 3 November 2019
Article
Embrace the messiness of evidence
Very few things are certain, but we believe those who make things appear certain. That tendency to believe those who speak with confidence is dangerous, because we have evidence showing that confid...
Published 12 October 2019
Article
Husk det store bildet nĂĄr det gjelder vanskelige beslutninger
Making complex decisions that produce the best results is a crucial part of all leadership roles. To make these decisions, you must be able to have difficult conversations where there are often a l...
Published 12 October 2019
Article
Recognize the different levels of trustworthiness for evidence
The quality of your analysis rests on two pillars—good thinking and good evidence—and evaluating the quality of evidence can be hard to do. In fact, taken individually or as a body, evidence is lik...
Published 30 September 2019
Article
Frame with an SCQ sequence
A good substitute for a “background” slide—or chapter, in a written report—is a SCQ sequence, which summarizes the essence of the problem in a concise, three-step statement. Borrowed from storytell...
Published 23 September 2019
Article
Embrace the distributed nature of decision making
Decision making is a critical part of solving complex problems. In theory, it happens after framing the problem and exploring options and criteria, in the form of a climax where the fundamental com...
Published 10 April 2019
Article
What a problem solver can learn from the unfolding 737 Max story
From a problem-solving standpoint, the Boeing 737 Max accidents provide valuable learning lessons: Fix the cause, not the symptom, Being MECE ("mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive") isn’...
Published 4 April 2019
Article
Define stuff
Don’t tell me what strategy is about, tell me what it is. “Strategy is not primarily about planning. It is about intentional, informed, and integrated choices.” This is as helpful as explaining w...
Published 4 March 2019
Article
Consider favoring simplicity over completeness
We cannot reproduce reality in its full complexity, so we need to simplify; a model is a simplification. A good model will retain all and only the important aspects, doing away with the unimportant...
Published 19 February 2019
Article
Don't look for perfection, it can be destructive
Perfectionism is on the rise. And yet, perfection is overrated, at least when it comes to solving ill-defined problems. This post is part of series that argues that going after perfection isn’t nec...
Published 28 January 2019
Article
Don’t look for perfection, it’s not optimal
The quality of solutions ranges from horrible to perfect. Although aiming for excellence is desirable, aiming for perfection might not be.
Published 22 January 2019
Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving
Book
Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving
Whether you are a student or a working professional, you can benefit from being better at solving the complex problems that come up in your life. Strategic Thinking in Complex Problem Solving provi...
Published 1 January 2000
A simple solution to complex problems