Creating simple solutions for complex socio-economic problems

Giri Kesavan, MBA 2021, introduces his work with the Mash Foundation Trust and his upcoming talk at TEDx London Business School, ‘Simple solutions to complex problems.’ Drawing on his experiences working in microfinance and social impact in Kenya and Tanzania during his MBA, Giri explores how even the most complex socio-economic problems can be solved using simple, yet impactful, solutions.

‘Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,’ Leonardo da Vinci.

As I finish my MBA programme at London Business School, what I’ve realised is that drilling down to the simplest form of the problem and tackling the root cause of solutions is absolutely vital. Yes, we can use detailed frameworks, analysis, metrics, tools and techniques – but fundamentally, we need to understand root-cause, and be frugal and adaptive in our solutions.

During the MBA I’ve been involved in a whole host of projects working with global companies, from Uganda to New York to London to Kenya! These international projects and experiences across multiple sectors and business areas have highlighted how startlingly similar root causes actually are. Indeed, looking back on my own experiences before London Business School with a ‘post MBA’ lens, it’s been an interesting thought process to reflect on how to distil a complex problem into its simplest form.

Over the past few years I’ve been working with The MASH Foundation Trust, working with the founder, Charles Macharia, on how to bring economic empowerment through education in Kenya. It’s a complex problem! How can we solve it?

Fundamentally, looking at even the most complex issue, the broad themes and areas of contention can be distilled into the following:

  • Resource: Ah the classic management question. How can we do more with less ? In a highly resource constrained world with competing priorities, focusing on the fundamental problem and gearing resources towards that area is key. Throwing money at a problem isn’t the solution. Being frugal and innovative with what you have is!
  • Time: Everyone wants everything yesterday. One of the challenges we faced in Kenya was how to manage time, prioritise and ensure incremental delivery day by day was always aligned to the main objectives of the organisation. Very often, in the rush to deliver, we forget how to sync bottoms-up initiatives with top-down strategy – and that’s absolutely vital to optimising time and energy.
  • Relationships: Effective stakeholder management and communication is key. During my projects, this aspect of doing business, especially in an emerging economy with multiple competing interests and stakeholder groups, was always a thorny issue. Being transparent in communication, adapting the message to your audience and crucially, managing expectations is pivotal.

Very often, across the three dimensions above, businesses can create innovative and simple solutions to counteract roadblocks and obstacles to success. This year it’s an honour to be selected to speak at TEDx London Business School – and in my TEDx talk I’ll be going through scenarios of how even complex socio-economic problems can be solved through simple, and yet impactful, solutions.

Listen to Giri’s talk as part of TEDx London Business School.  On 2&4 February, the much anticipated TEDxLondonBusinessSchool 2021 live broadcast will return for its 10th anniversary. Join to embark on a journey of inspiration, thrill and adventure under this year’s theme of ‘Mind the Gap’. Meet and mingle with TED enthusiasts from around the globe, and get inspired by our talks. Find out more at:

Giri Kesavan (MBA2021) is Co-President of The Tech & Media Club at London Business School. An MBA2021 student, he also chairs the degree & careers wide Technology Sector Steering Committee, working with the school, faculty, industry, alumni and Careers Centre on Technology education & careers. Giri works with The Wheeler Institute on content development, outreach and student-led collaborations. He is further involved with the school as an MBA Academic Representative and Peer Leader for Technology.

The Wheeler Institute is seeking to understand, illuminate and offer solutions to the challenges faced by the developing world, with an aim to identify the role of business in addressing these challenges and a focus on the implications and actions for those in developing countries. In support of our students, we approach this blog section as a reflective platform and a space where individuals can generate debate as long term agents of positive change.

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