Start at the Beginning

Floor lamp and big poster over brick wall room interior background 3d rendering
We’ve been brought up, trained and rewarded for getting it right.

We have templates, best practice, and proven solutions.

All of these were created for a time that isn’t now, but a time of greater stability, earlier in the industrial cycle, when things were at best complicated, and at worst complex. We could apply the same solution to similar problems and get an acceptable result. Double bubble for consultants.

It’s been changing for a while, as complex has given way to something more chaotic. Something that back in 1973 Horst Rittel described as “Wicked”. He described ten characteristics:

  1. They have no definitive formulation
  2. They can’t be measured because they bleed into one another.
  3. Solutions can only be good or bad, not true or false.
  4. there are no templates
  5. There is always more than one explanation to a wicked problem
  6. Every wicked problem is a symptom of another problem
  7. No mitigation strategy can be scientifically tested
  8. Solutions are often “one time only” efforts
  9. Every wicked problem is unique
  10. If youre addressing a wicked problem, only you are accountable.

It’s a manager’s nightmare. Can’t be delegated, can’t be tested, can’t be justified.

And now, it get’s worse. In Green Swans John Elkington decribes additional characteristics that make formerly the formerly wicked, “super wicked”

  • Time is running out
  • There is no central authority
  • Those seeking to solve the problem are also causing it.
  • Current policies discount the future irrationally.
Welcome to now

CoronaVirus. Black Lives Matter. Brexit. Climate Change.

They all meet the criteria of Super Wicked problems, and we’re still trying to deal with them as though we know what we’re doing.

We don’t, and that’s OK.

It’s how it is. We just need to deal with it.

Start at the beginning

We have been trained and rewarded for knowing the answers. X happens, do Y.

It no longer works. When each problem is a unique, one shot affair our previous qualifications and courses count for less.

What counts is our ownership of the problem, our curiosity, our determination and our willingness to lead. Skin in the Game.

If we bring our assumptions into the room, or our egos, or our status, we miss key elements. We bring them in when they are in service of a possible solution, not the presumed solution.

Make it up as you go.

It’s a one off. The chances of getting it “right” in one go are minimal. At the heart of being agile and anti fragile is iteration – observe, orientate, decide, act, repeat.

Do that till the problem is solved, or decide to abandon and find a better way.

Lean, Agile, Antifragile are mindsets more than processes.

Aim for Better

Not fixed. Wicked problems are never fixed, and our biggest challenges arrive when we allow ourselves to think they are. The financial crash of 2008 is a good example. It’s not fixed, it’s just quietly mutating.

We will not “fix” Coronavirus. It will just sit there, mutating.

Right nowm aim for better, and prepare for next.

Wicked Opportunities

All of the above principles apply of course for opportunities.

The best way to solve a wicked problem is to make it irrelevant.

Originize is holding open house on Friday 24th at 4:30pm UK.

It’s where the conversations that help us sort out “wicked” happen. Be good if you can join us.

Click Here to Register

Published by Richard H Merrick

Complexity and volatility create enormous opportunities for those willing to go beyond the boundaries of "business as usual" to explore the edges of their business. I am an entrepreneur, a coach, a creative thinker, and above all, an explorer of possibility.

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