wicked problems and social messes
April 12, 2010, 7:00 pm
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: , ,

A wicked problem is a hard to solve issue in social planning.  Here are some lists of characteristics of wicked problems from Wikipedia.

Wicked problems are economic, environmental and political.  Often they are impossible to solve because they require changing the mindset and behavior of large groups of people, maybe even countries.

Here are the characteristics from Wikipedia:

A list of the characteristics of wicked problems by Rittel and Webber in 1973:

    1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem.
    2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
    3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse.
    4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.
    5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a “one-shot operation”; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial-and-error, every attempt counts significantly.
    6. Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.
    7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
    8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.
    9. The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem’s resolution.
    10. The planner has no right to be wrong (planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate).

… and by Conklin:

    1. The problem is not understood until after the formulation of a solution.
    2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
    3. Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong.
    4. Every wicked problem is essentially novel and unique.
    5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a ‘one shot operation’
    6. Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions.

… and the defining characteristics of a social mess according to Horn:

    1. No unique “correct” view of the problem;
    2. Different views of the problem and contradictory solutions;
    3. Most problems are connected to other problems;
    4. Data are often uncertain or missing;
    5. Multiple value conflicts;
    6. Ideological and cultural constraints;
    7. Political constraints;
    8. Economic constraints;
    9. Often a-logical or illogical or multi-valued thinking;
    10. Numerous possible intervention points;
    11. Consequences difficult to imagine;
    12. Considerable uncertainty, ambiguity;
    13. Great resistance to change; and,
    14. Problem solver(s) out of contact with the problems and potential solutions.

… and finally the characteristics of a super wicked problem:

    1. Time is running out.
    2. No central authority.
    3. Those seeking to solve the problem are also causing it.

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