Category Archives: Taming Wicked Problems

“Beyond Right and Wrong”

November 26, 2016   We’ve all heard it before.  It’s usually said in a voice full of anger:  ”I’m right, and you’re wrong!”  And often, a voice just as angry answers, “No, you’re the one who’s wrong.  I’m right!” As most of us know from experience, trying to determine who’s right and who’s wrong about […]

Starting Productive Conversations

October 29, 2016   The lead story  in Engineering News for October 24 begins with this headline:  ”Collaborative Thinking Needed to Tackle ‘Wicked’ Problems.”  Kudos to the author, Martin Loosemore, for choosing “tackle”  instead of the much more common “solve.” It’s a sign that at least some of those who talk about wicked problems are beginning […]

Eschew Phony Conversations

September 26, 2016   “Every start-up needs four things,” writes Alan Webber, cofounder of “Fast Company Magazine,” in Rules of Thumb,  ”change, connections, conversation, and community.”  I offer two revisions to Webber’s trenchant observations:  First, it is not only start-ups that need change, connections conversation and community, but all endeavors that bring people together to […]

Success Story: The 59th Story Crisis

August 18, 2016   An important question for us to consider as individuals and societies  is “Are we in trouble?”   The  answer is “Of course we are!”  Throughout history individuals and societies, facing unpredictable and unfriendly futures, have always been convinced that troubles were just ahead.  What they did not understand was the nature […]

Becoming Skilled: “Nexting”

  June 19, 2016     Question:  Given that face-to-face communication is the most important activity in working successfully with wicked problems at all levels – in relationships, teams, organizations, and society – what is the most important communication skill to insure positive results? Answer:  The most important  communication skill for working with wicked problems […]

Success Story: Chamberlain at Gettysburg

May 31, 2016   While some wicked problems involve one person struggling with a personal decision or crisis (“Should I go to medical school or join the Marines?”  ”Should I marry Fred or Robert?”  ”Should I travel the world for a year before beginning my Freshman term?”), most wicked problems  involve other people: partners or […]

Becoming Skilled: Moving Toward Dialogue

  May 22, 2016   Introduction:  Among the most difficult problems that scientists, engineers and other STEM personnel   face are Nested Problems:   a technical or tame problem that seems straight forward enough but is actually nested within the larger social and cultural situation – a tame problem in the middle of a wicked […]

Becoming Skilled: Wicked Problem Language

May 8, 2016 When grappling with wicked problems: Avoid Solve Define Solution Eliminate Fix   Two Wicked Problems Any hope for success in the coming decades is closely tied to success in managing two difficult and related problems:  First, learning what needs to be learned, learning it quickly and efficiently, and then using it well; […]