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Forum Post: Why Doesn't Everyone KNOW this?

Posted 10 years ago on Dec. 29, 2011, 8:18 p.m. EST by justhefacts (1275)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement


The term "wicked problem" describes exactly what is going on in our world and economy RIGHT NOW. It's a term that's been around for 30+ years.

AND for 30+ years, the "experts" in the field of social engineering have been developing and refining the best ways to DEAL with "wicked problems". (and now super-wicked problems)

I ONLY stumbled across it BY ACCIDENT while trying to find the most effective way to express what I'm thinking and feeling and experiencing instead of falling prey to the distractions and arguments and debates and endless opinions. (The article calls it something like drowning in the waterfall-of information etc)

YES! I DO feel like I'm drowning in a waterfall and I'm BEYOND tired of that feeling!

So then I started ASKING everyone I've met since "Have you ever heard of the term "wicked problem" or "social messes"???" So far today....NOT ONE of them has. So now I want to ask a much larger "sample" of people the same question-

Have you EVER heard of any of this?

I'm overjoyed to know that the "experts" not only came up with a way to define what we are ALL experiencing, but ALSO have come up with ways to fight it that make perfect sense! But I'm MAD AS HELL-that in 30+ years since they did it, that this concept AND it's tools HAVE NOT BECOME COMMON KNOWLEDGE to "we the people"????

WHY...for the love of ALL that is holy, hasn't this knowledge and understanding been TRANSMITTED to as many CITIZENS as possible? Why isn't it being introduced and discussed in EVERY "social situation" we find ourselves in? WHY haven't "THE PEOPLE" been informed on, and given THE BEST social information AND tools the social experts have come up with so far in order to solve our problems?

Worse yet-WHY aren't the "social activist people" and "social movement experts" USING THEM themselves?????



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[-] 1 points by ithink (761) from York, PA 10 years ago

Great paper, thanks!

[-] 1 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 10 years ago

Would you consider changing the title of the post perhaps to something less vague. Pretty please.

[-] 1 points by dcosts (69) from St Petersburg, FL 10 years ago

Interesting read

[-] 1 points by JadedCitizen (4277) 10 years ago

I share every sentiment you expressed, where the hell has this thing been hiding for 30 years. A "wicked problem": Hell, I didn't even know the term 'tame' problem. I think back to a several years ago when I was in management, if I would have had this tool back then I might not have quit that job out of frustration at that waterfall feeling. Thanks for posting this.

[-] 1 points by JesseHeffran (3903) 10 years ago

After reading the first page of the above link, i'd say that the information hits the nail on the head of what I go through all the time. The one thing that gets me on the bad side of every employer I've ever had is my constant questioning of SOPs. If you are going to tell me to do A,B and C, and you don't know why those steps are important, they just are, you better try harder to convince me. But that does not seem to be how things get done. The standard rebuttal is always, "that's what I had to do so that is what you will do, and if you don't like it, I will write you up. To be fair, I often think well maybe it is my lack of discipline that makes me question those above me. But when I see those above me doing wasteful things, shady things and pretentious things, I feel better about my self when I quit my job.

Now, to apply this to your wicked problems. We as citizens all come from different social economic backgrounds. I'd say these differences are so great that we speak different languages and have different customs. So when we all come to, say, this site that resembles a water fall, we all see the problem but from different perspectives. I plan on reading more of the above link, and if I am totally of base as to its content, I'll make the corrections.

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 10 years ago

It makes perfect sense, and it describes the kind of thing that I've grown up having to deal with on a much, much smaller scale since at least my freshman year of high school. In high school we wound up doing a great deal of group work, often long-term projects that we were responsible for taking care of on our own time and which had to adhere to fairly vague, in some cases wide open and/or contradictory guidelines (that in some cases were completely arbitrary).

In effect, the teacher became all about what was needed and then it was all about how we were going to define and meet that need and to what degree we could match what was doable to what was called for. It takes a particular kind of discipline to win in a scenario like that, especially in the real world where when you screw up it's not just your grade that takes a beating but real people with real lives, and that kind of discipline isn't intuitive and isn't necessarily even teachable by traditional means, but in some cases is best handled by tossing people in a microcosm of the situation with enough guidance that they have some clue what they're doing and then letting them sink or swim until they finally get the hang of this.

The problem that I see is that it's very psychologically difficult to admit that the problems facing our nation and our world are in fact wicked problems, especially when such a definition would mean that most if not all of your mental toolbox is useless (which large parts of it are unless you're willing to seriously adapt them) and thus it's far easier to try to treat them as tame problems that can be summed up in a two-bit slogan and answered with a fairly simple series of policies.

OWS should have been using these techniques from Day 1, viewing its mission not simply as getting in the streets and making noise, but as a group embarking on the biggest group project of all- how to turn this country around. That would have meant a very different approach to this whole thing after about the first month, including the stuff I mentioned earlier about PR and political involvement, and from a theoretical angle that should have entailed refusal to eschew any potential avenue for a solution simply because they didn't like it.

It would mean that the anarchists and the actual communists need to be willing to put their utopia on hold right along with the rest of us and look at simple, incremental steps that benefit the nation completely regardless of whose plan they came from. Focus on those things that you can get everyone to agree on (because unless your populace is utterly stupid or on the take they'll have a decent general idea of things that should be done and that might help) and then the rest is just feedback and experimentation...

[-] 0 points by justhefacts (1275) 10 years ago

"OWS should have been using these techniques from Day 1"

EVERY freaking social movement in the past 30 YEARS should have been using this! ESPECIALLY if all of those movements really ARE....about solving the problems we have.

So the question I have NOW is-why has something SO logical, SO well thought out, SO well researched and studied and SO DAMNED EFFECTIVE been completely and totally HIDDEN from the American People?

And-what can we do to CHANGE that? It will be very interesting to see just how many people ARE reasonable and able to drop their biases in support of the whole and who are NOT. Will this idea even last on this BOARD long enough to get a rough idea?

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 10 years ago

I don't know if it's been hidden so much as it's not the easiest thing to do and requires a fair amount of intellectual humility to pull off. If you have a set vision of what the ideal future world is going to look like then in your mind social issues are in fact tame problems and deserve no further attention than it would take to implement your specific vision even if such a vision is unrealistic at best.

My guess as to why these techniques are unused (and this is just a guess) is that most social movements tend to arise out of dissatisfaction with the status quo and the worse things get the bigger and more diverse the movement becomes (because at that stage of the game fewer and fewer people are being properly served by the status quo). The problem with that is that all they have in common is that the status quo doesn't work for them.

To go back to the car analogy, we haven't even completely gotten to the point of defining our goal as a safe car; some of us have, and yet even that's not that great because we have some people who define a safe car as "something our legal team will get called into court over just enough to keep paying our salaries but functions well enough we can reliably shoot down plaintiffs" and then somebody else strapped a pair of pillows to the bumpers of a VW bug while nobody was looking and is happily driving it into a wall.

We have some people who believe the safest car is no car at all, some who want an Abrams M-1 that runs on renewable energy, and some who are dead set on a tricycle powered by a little diesel engine. When the degree of divergence of opinion is that strong, then turning your constituents into a team capable of solving wicked problems is a wicked problem in and of itself (and then you're really screwed unless you're even more flexible in approach than everyone under you is supposed to be) and most leaders of movements prefer not to grapple with that because it's such a great way to paralyze yourself.

[-] 0 points by justhefacts (1275) 10 years ago

So-can we CHANGE that? Do you believe that there are enough good, honest, people of integrity left in America to pull this off? If there's not even enough out there that will even consider this for a moment and determine that their COUNTRY is worth more than their EGOS.....


[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 10 years ago

It should be possible. I figure that there are a lot of people out there who are like you: intelligent, logical, empathic, disaffected with how things are now, but not exactly willing to go haring off after the first movement to pop up for fear of making things worse. What I'm hoping for is something that will bring people like that together to change things: what the Tea Party claims to be and what OWS desperately wants to be.

I don't know when or if or how that's going to happen, but I have enough faith in this country to know that it has to happen at some point. I know that I don't plan on giving up anytime soon, and nor do I plan on waiting for it, and that whether I like it or not I'm probably going to get very involved in politics after MIT simply because I feel like it would be dereliction of duty to do otherwise.