future matters

Wicked challenges

30 May 2018

Wicked challenges

How to deal with complexity and uncertainty?

Wickedness isn’t a degree of difficulty. Wicked issues are different because traditional processes can’t resolve them, according to Horst W.J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber, professors of design and urban planning at the University of California at Berkeley, who first framed this term in 1973. A wicked problem has innumerable causes, is tough to describe, and doesn’t have one right answer. Environmental degradation, terrorism, and poverty—these are classic examples of wicked problems. They’re the opposite of hard but ordinary problems, which people can solve in a finite time period by applying standard techniques. Not only societies face wicked problems, companies as well.

The Windesheim university of applied sciences does research on wicked challenges & leadership. Together with Kadaster they organized a seminar on May 29 about ‘dealing with uncertainty in wicked challenges’ and invited Sharon Zivkovic, an Australian expert and founder of the Wicked Lab to speak. Sharon shared her views on what kind of different approach is needed to design a better future for a wicked world. Ordinary project management doesn’t work, as a project leader you need to build a solution ecosystem and focus on your role as enabler, inspiring different initiatives. This requires creative problem solving, people skills, entrepreneurship and feeling comfortable with ‘not knowing’. You need to let go of your desire for ‘cause and effect’, because you can only track overall progress – in the same way you can change the landscape by planting seeds everywhere. For more information see Wicked Lab, where she also shares the software tool she developed for solution ecosystems.

Do you recognize the description of wicked challenges? And how are you dealing with them?