Solving Wicked Problems

Solving Wicked Problems-46
In the city of Gordium a nobleman's chariot was lashed to a pole with a devilishly intricate knot: who, pray tell, would undo it?  The tangled strands had thwarted countless attempts, until a self-confident Macedonian appeared.

Great leaders see challenges in system terms—and do homework to get the right people involved, with the right perspectives represented: doing stakeholder analysis, understanding dependencies, key interests, etc.

The big mistake is thinking you can make faster progress by just 'working small.' Those left out won’t contribute their valuable knowledge, and may even sabotage the solution.” “Thus the example of AIDS: Dr.

Small wonder “complex problem solving” is listed by the World Economic Forum as the top workforce skill for 2020—as it was for 2015.

Understanding Best Leaders’ Approach Put your sword aside: today’s challenges are too big and messy to be solved by one person, no matter how clever. Kate Isaacs I put the question to Dr.  Kate Isaacs, an experienced researcher and facilitator who’s been studying complex problem solving for over a decade.

“The history of AIDS illustrates the evolving science of tackling hyper-difficult and complicated problems—so-called ‘wicked problems.’ ‘Wicked’ means hard to diagnose and involving multiple stakeholders and domains.

Such problems are also relentless: solutions are temporary, as issues keep morphing into new problems.” Wicked Spreading I interrupted: “Can we say then that more problems business leaders face today are 'wicked' too? “Well, to a point—there are plenty of well-bounded, short-term issues that don’t need large-scale collaborative solutions.

Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, ‘expanded the table’ in the early days of the first outbreaks.

Against all advice—and blistering public criticism-- he pushed to include AIDS patients in a collaborative effort to develop treatments.

Continuing Knotty Problems Business leaders lack such brisk solutions for their problems today.

Global competition, networks, and stakeholder empowerment are transforming former manageable, bounded challenges into endless Gordian knots.


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