Wicked Problems: how organizations deal with them? Part 1

Wicked Problems: how organizations deal with them? Part 1

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How are we supposed to solve a problem if we are not even able to identify its the real nature of the problem itself? Keep on reading and you’ll find out.

In this article, and in the following one too, I’ll try to define the path to follow in order to manage these kind of situations.
Inside organizations, but not only, there are a lot of moments in which “wicked problems” arise: we should be ready to spot them, define which are the main one, and, more than anything else, understand how to solve them.


Very often we are able to understand the real nature of a wicked problem only when it is too late. We talk about W.P. not only when we address to incredibly huge problems (global warming), but also when we think about organizational problems (launching a new product in a new market or creating a new company strategy) and about everyday’s life problems (How the hell am I supposed to explain to foreigners the proper way to cook pasta?).

For this reason is essential to understand which are the main characteristics of one problem like those, so to spot them before it’s too late.


  1. W.P. boundaries are not well defined, thus it’s really difficult to consider them as a whole.
  2. Every W.P. is different from all the others, for this reason it would be hardly impossible to identify a repeatable solution.
  3. The best solution doesn’t exist, but you can find the “best” solution with given constraints like money and time.
  4. It’s possible to understand a W.P. entirely only after someone tries to implement a solution to solve it.

These characteristics are not very useful, isn’t it? But, unfortunately, that’s the most “clear” way to let you understand the difficulty in spotting a W.P.: a changing nature, hardships in detecting it and labile borders.

But, let’s try to undestand more thanks to another point of view, the historical one:

How companies used to deal with problems?

Once upon a time, managing problems was pretty much easier for companies: the goal was to find a the optimal solution for a problem that had previously arisen. Most of the problems used to arise inside organizations and, most of the times, they were caused by inefficiencies: easy to define, identify and study. Managers used to have a lot of time to deal with these kind of problems, for this reason waiting for the optimal solution to come, was not a big deal.

In few words, organizations kept on creating models based on reality in order to help themselves in managing to solve the problem.

How companies deal (or should deal) with problems today?

Nowadays companies don’t have as much time as they were used to. Furthermore they can’t wait for an optimal solution: competitors could exploit that time to gain market shares. As you may recall from the article “may the design be with you”, companies are constantly striving to offer innovative solutions. In addition to problems related to time and timings, we can also observe another problem related to stakeholders: are we completely sure that in an open innovation environment, like the one we are experience nowadays, we can clearly define the players, both internal and external, involving in it?

Environment like those are the best ones in which Wicked Problems may arise and, at this point, I don’t think is really useful to stop and try to find the optimal solution. Today what’s really important is finding the best solution that’s possible to find in a limited timespan.


If you’d like to know the methodology I tried to design for you, make sure you don’t miss the next article where I’ll show you the 5 important steps to solve a Wicked Problem.

Do you wanna be sure you won’t miss it?

What do you think about the topics in this article?

Let me know by commenting in the bottom section, I would be happy to talk with you.

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