Bulletproof Problem Solving

The One Skill that Changes Everything

Charles Conn & Robert McLean

Six problem-solving mindsets for very uncertain times

Even the most inscrutable problems have solutions – or better outcomes that have been reached so far. Here’s how the best problem solvers crack the code.

Click Here to read the McKinsey Quarterly article for September 15, 2020 written by Bulletproof Problem Solving authors Charles Conn and Robert McLean.

Follow Bulletproof Problem Solving now on YouTube

Co-authors Charles Conn and Robert McLean have completed a series of content pieces for YouTube where both authors discuss their professional experiences, the importance of problem solving, the 7-step Bulletproof Problem Solving process and leading example cases from the book. Follow us on YouTube for more problem solving discussion with the authors.

Click Here to watch the first YouTube piece by Charles Conn 


Sharing ideas on innovation, change, disruption, transformation and the future. Episode 221 has co-author Charles Conn discussing the 7-step systematic approach to how you can become a highly sought-after bulletproof problem solver.

Click Here to listen to the recent podcast with co-author Charles Conn and host Aidan McCullen.

WANT BETTER STRATEGIES? Become a Bulletproof Problem Solver

This episode of Inside the Strategy Room features a discussion between co-author Rob McLean and Chris Bradley, a McKinsey senior partner. The discussion is on how a disciplined and comprehensive approach to problem solving can be applied to almost any kind of problem.

Click Here to listen to the conversation.


Starting with these 5 questions can help you and your team navigate your way through the complexity of planning and decision making that is before us all.

Click Here to read the recent article by co-author Robert McLean

 Problem Solving in Education  

The 7-step Bulletproof Problem Solving framework is helping students become better problem solvers across the world. 

As taught at Harvard, Oxford, Georgetown, AGSM, Northeastern & the McKinsey Academy

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.

✉ Contact Rob

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.

✉ Contact Charles



“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

“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

“Conn and McLean have distilled their matchless experience in attacking challenges of every scale and level of complexity into this virtual war-room of a book, creating an indispensable resource for the 21st century problem-solvers upon whom our future depends.   A must-read for all aspiring change agents!”

Sally Osberg, retired CEO of the Skoll Foundation, co-author of Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works

“Navigating ambiguity and solving complex problems creatively is the truth test for humans to complement rather than substitute the artificial intelligence of computers. Without much better approaches to teach those skills, our schools risk preparing second class robots rather than first class humans. Rob McLean and Charles Conn show that this can be done and provide an intuitive roadmap for how to do this, with lots of real world examples that make it fun.”

Andreas Schleicher, Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills, OECD

“Disruption in today’s business environment puts problem solving at the top of every leader’s challenges. But how? This engaging book puts together a McKinsey team’s scientific seven steps approach. From taking a problem apart to rearranging its pieces, to framing it so its solution can be seen, the book presents a must read analysis for executives and social sector leaders. It excites both the reader’s mind and the possibilities for project teams.”

Glenn Hubbard, Dean and Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics, Columbia Business School

“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

“The old paradigm of strategy departments and planning cycles has been overthrown by agile and rapid team-based problem solving, providing  better solutions and better organization alignment to implement.  This book, written by two of the smartest people I know, provides the needed blueprint for how build these world-beating problem solving teams.”

Mehrdad Baghai, Chair Alchemy Growth and author of As One

“The world has never been in more need of extraordinary problem solvers-in business and every other walk of life. Rob McLean and Charles Conn powerfully demonstrate that problem solving is a structured process that can be learned and applied to the benefit of everybody. Their book is such an important contribution to the resolution of our biggest problem solving challenges.”

Nick Lovegrove, Professor of the Practice, Georgetown University and author of The Mosaic Principle