Bulletproof Problem Solving

The One Skill that Changes Everything

Charles Conn & Robert McLean

Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Indus trial Revolution (World Economic Forum, 2016).

Complex problem solving is the core skill for the 21st Century, the only way to keep up with rapid change.  But systematic problem solving is not taught in most universities and graduate schools. The book covers the seven-step approach to creative problem solving developed in leading consulting firms. It employs a highly visual, logic-tree method that can be applied to almost any problem, from strategic business decisions to global social challenges. Conn and McLean, with decades of experience at McKinsey, start-up companies, and environment-focused foundations, provide a toolkit with 30 detailed, real-world examples. 

Rob McLean AM

Rob McLean AM


Rob is a Director Emeritus of McKinsey and Company. He led the Australian and New Zealand McKinsey practice for eight years and served on the firm’s global Director’s Committee. As Dean of the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM), Rob saw the growing need for stronger problem-solving capability for business leaders of the future. He is now an investor in mathematics education and data analytics software, alongside his philanthropic interests in conservation and social enterprise. He employs these techniques in his role as a Trustee of The Nature Conservancy in Australia and Asia to address water for wetlands, shellfish restoration and improving human health from urban green spaces. He is a director of the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Australia’s largest philanthropic Foundation. He is a graduate of the University of New England in Australia and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. He became a member of the Order of Australia in 2010 for his contributions to business, social welfare and the environment.

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Charles Conn

Charles Conn


Charles was most recently CEO of Oxford Sciences Innovation, a £600M venture firm formed in partnership with Oxford to develop the University’s advanced science ideas. Before that he completed a five-year term as CEO of the Rhodes Trust, the organization that delivers the Rhodes Scholarships in Oxford. In this role Charles led a successful transformation effort to refresh the century-old organization’s strategy and operations, including development of a problem solving training program for scholars. He sits or has sat on many company and nonprofit boards, including Patagonia, the Mandela Rhodes Foundation in South Africa, and Arcadia Foundation. Prior to his Oxford roles, Charles was a senior advisor to the Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, where his conservation projects included the wild salmon ecosystems initiative and the Palmyra atoll research station. Charles was a technology entrepreneur, and as founding CEO of Ticketmaster-Citysearch led the company through its IPO and acquisitions of Match.com, Evite and other companies. He began his career at the Boston Consulting Group and was a Partner of McKinsey & Company. He is a graduate of Harvard and Boston Universities, and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

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“Problem Solving is the core skill for the twenty-first century. Now, finally, we have a guide to doing it right that any of us can follow.”

Dominic Barton

Global Managing Partner Emeritus, McKinsey & Company

“The Bulletproof Problem Solving approach acknowledges the reality many environmentalists face today: this is hard work. Conn and McLean’s guide makes it a little bit easier.”

Mark R. Tercek

CEO of The Nature Conservancy and author of Nature’s Fortune

“As a former policymaker who argues for moving beyond policy to the broader enterprise of public problem-solving, I welcome this volume! The techniques and insights apply, with various modifications, to problems everywhere: personal, professional, public and private, local, national and global.”

Anne-Marie Slaughter

CEO, New America, Former Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State

“Great strategic problem solving is an essential tool, one whose value is only going up. Bulletproof provides the secret sauce behind the McKinsey framework to help structure and guide the problem-solving process. I want to hire people who understand this approach.”

Barry Nalebuff

Milton Steinbach Professor, Yale School of Management and cofounder, Honest Tea