Wicked Problem - Explained
What is a Wicked Problem?
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Table of ContentsWhat is a Wicked Problem?What are the Characteristics of a Wicked Problem?How to Address a Wicked Problem?
What is a Wicked Problem?
Major organizational problems related to strategy (generally competitive strategy) or often referred to as “wicked problems”.
Wicked problems can also be applied to society at large. Some examples of wicked problems are poverty, terrorism, inequality, war, etc.
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What are the Characteristics of a Wicked Problem?
The defining characteristics of a wicked problem include:
- seriousness or gravity for the organization (or other stakeholders - as there are often multiple);
- the problem is not fully understood or clearly defined among the stakeholders;
- there are numerous (often non-traditional) approaches that could be taken (by any number of stakeholders) to address the problem; and
- the outcome of any approach taken is uncertain until implemented or effectuated.
How to Address a Wicked Problem?
Wicked problems tend to require specific, customized approaches. Many theorists and practitioners proposed an analytical or scientific approach, including extensive research, acquisition of knowledge or understanding or the problem and intended outcomes, positing hypothesis, argumentation between stakeholders, and experimentation in approaches toward a solution.
Others argue that wicked problems require creativity and innovation of novel approaches. This requires broad input that is often employed through ideation sessions (such as brainstorming).
John.C. Camillus, "Strategy as a wicked problem", Harvard Business Review, May 2008.