“Wicked problems have these features: It is hard to say what the problem is, to define it clearly, or to tell where it stops and starts. There is no “right” way to view the problem, no definitive formulation. The way it’s framed will change what the solution appears to be. Someone can always say that the problem is just a symptom of another problem, and that someone will not be wrong.  There are many stakeholders, all with their own frames, which they tend to see as exclusively correct.  Ask what the problem is and you will get a different answer from each. The problem is interconnected to a lot of other problems; pulling them apart is almost impossible.”

Jay Rosen, Professor of Journalism – New York University; Author – ‘What Are Journalists For?’, (1999)

“Wicked problems demand people who are creative, pragmatic, flexible, and collaborative.”

The above excerpts of Jay Rosen’s thoughts are from John Brockman’s ‘This Will Make You Smarter’, (2012)

First, I want to thank my friend George Torok for recommending the book presented by John Brockman. I will share this book recommendation with other friends, who will appreciate the diversity of topics and thought.

PS: I liked the book so much I bought more ‘edge.org‘ inspired, John Brockman books.

About wicked problems…

The description provided by Jay Rosen describes some interesting problem territory. It captures elite problems that go above and beyond the problems encountered during normal business. At least, I expect the majority of people would think that way. On the other hand, considering the exponential pace of information technology advancement, perhaps all businesses face wicked problems? And, perhaps, the key considerations are whether or not business people have the wherewithal to understand the extent of their exposure to increasingly more-complicated problems and whether or not they have the ability to either evade or solve those problems.

When I first read Jay Rosen’s description of ‘Wicked Problems’ I thought of our discussions of ‘Sticky Problems’.

We describe Sticky Problems as:

  • Complicated/complex business problems. People are concerned about the problem even though they may not fully understand the extent of the problem’s implications/impact.
  • Crucial problems that must be solved in order to ‘keep up with’ the pace of industry-sector change, grow, increase profitability, or gain advantage over competitors.
  • Similar to Wicked Problems, problems that affect multiple stakeholders who have diverse ‘frames’ and needs. These diverse needs are not necessarily thought of as exclusively correct, however, they are thought of as very important keys to success.
  • Similar to Wicked Problems, problems that demand people who are creative, pragmatic, flexible, and collaborative.
  • Problems that have a limited lifespan. Sticky Problems are important but not urgent problems. When they become urgent problems it is too late to solve them because the business is too compromised to fix the damage and/or make up the lost ground…unless the business is so well-funded it can weather and survive even perfect storms.

The people at all businesses face day-to-day problems. These are a combination of general business problems [finance, HR, etc.] and industry- or sector-specific problems. Most of these problems are framed in urgency. Sometimes the problems are important or involve not-routine work/tasks, however, most day-to-day problems are not important and the work/tasks are routine. [Important/Urgent – Time Management Matrix – Covey]

All businesses that want to grow, improve or be sustainable face both day-to-day problems and Sticky Problems. Many are not aware of their Sticky Problems. Some progressive small- to mid-sized businesses are working to solve their Sticky Problems and disrupt their industry sector. Some progressive small- to mid-sized businesses are working to solve Wicked Problems in order to change the world or make a dent in the universe.

All larger, more-complicated businesses face day-to-day problems, Sticky Problems and Wicked Problems. Most large businesses are working to solve or at least thinking about their Sticky Problems. Some large businesses are working to solve Wicked Problems in order to change the world or make a dent in the universe.

Reposted from Rick Baker’s Thoughts http://rickbaker.ca/post/2017/01/11/Talk-About-Wicked-Problems.aspx

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