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MOMENTUM | How "wicked" is your wicked problem? 1/n

A "wicked problem" is a term coined by planning theorists Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber in the 1970s to describe complex, dynamic, and multifaceted issues that are challenging to define and solve. Wicked problems are characterized by their resistance to straightforward resolution due to the presence of multiple, interdependent factors, and the absence of clear criteria for determining a solution. These problems often lack a definitive problem statement, making them inherently difficult to tackle.

and...hey, i'm barely scratching the surface here. bear with me, we're just getting started.

Here are some key characteristics of wicked problems:

1. Complexity: Wicked problems involve numerous interconnected elements that are often difficult to fully understand or analyze. The complexity arises from the interactions among various factors and the dynamic nature of the problem.

2. Ambiguity: The problem's definition is often unclear, and there may be multiple perspectives on what the problem entails. Different stakeholders may have different views, leading to ambiguity in understanding the problem space.

3. Uncertainty: Wicked problems are often associated with uncertainty regarding both the causes and effects of the problem. Predicting outcomes and understanding the full scope of the problem can be challenging.

4. No Single Solution: Unlike well-defined problems that have clear and agreed-upon solutions, wicked problems do not have a single, straightforward solution. Solutions are not "right" or "wrong" but can be better or worse based on various criteria.

5. Stakeholder Diversity: Wicked problems typically involve a wide range of stakeholders with diverse perspectives, interests, and values. Managing the interests and inputs of these stakeholders adds to the complexity of addressing the problem.

Examples of wicked problems include climate change, poverty, healthcare reform, and social inequality.

Solving wicked problems often requires collaboration among diverse stakeholders, iterative approaches, and the acceptance that solutions may need to evolve over time.

Additionally, the solutions to wicked problems may have unintended consequences, and addressing one aspect of the problem might lead to new challenges.

The concept of wicked problems highlights the need for innovative and adaptive approaches to problem-solving, recognizing that these issues cannot be neatly compartmentalized or definitively solved with a one-size-fits-all solution.


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