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Wicked problems

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 4 months ago
Julian Burton big pictures to make collective sense of wicked problems.
Wicked problems always occur in a social context. The wickedness of the problem reflects the diversity among the stakeholders in the problem. Most projects in organizations are wicked problems. What emerges from the mass of technical, informational, social, political and cultural complexity are problems which cannot be solved through rational, linear problem working processes because the problem definition and our understanding of it evolve as new possible solutions are invented and implemented.
You don't understand the problem until you have developed a solution.  Indeed, there is no definitive statement of "The Problem."  The problem is ill-structured, an evolving set of interlocking issues and constraints.
Wicked problems have no stopping rule.  Since there is no definitive "The Problem", there is also no definitive "The Solution." The problem solving process ends when you run out of resources.
Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong, simply "better," "worse," "good enough," or "not good enough."  
Every wicked problem is essentially unique and novel.  There are so many factors and conditions, all embedded in a dynamic social context, that no two wicked problems are alike, and the solutions to them will always be custom designed and fitted.  
Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation," every attempt has consequences.  You cannot build a motorway to see how it works.  This is the "Catch 22" about wicked problems:  you can't learn about the problem without trying solutions, but every solution you try is expensive and has lasting unintended consequences which are likely to spawn new wicked problems.
Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions.  There may be no solutions, or there may be a host of potential solutions that are devised, and another host that are never even thought of.
Wicked problems emerging from socially complex situations require social learning process for their resolution. Such problems can only be engaged with through groups of people who care about the problem enough to work together to solve it. Some of the most complex problems (like global warming) require sustained social, political and technical effort on a global scale, radical changes in the way people think and behave across different cultures, and huge investment in new technologies or the adaptation of existing products and technologies.
Problem wickedness demands tools and methods which create shared understanding and shared commitment. Above all wicked problems require people who are skilled at building shared understanding, commitment, ideas and possible solutions through collaborative work/learning processes, and the confidence and capability to turn their ideas into actions and products.
Unpacking paradigms, Bridging Universes
Conversation involving Jeff Cronklin, Min Basadur, GK VanPatter
How do teachers help learners prepare for the wicked problems they will encounter in their professional and private lives?
What forms of experiences will enable learners to gain insights into this aspect of learning in a complex world?

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