This is the second in a series of “blogicles” on methods for resolving Wicked Problems. In the first installment, we noted the pioneering work of Rettel and Weber, who defined Wicked Problems mainly in the context of Urban Planning. Various contributors (e.g., Jeff Conklin) have extended their initial formulation in other directions. Here we focus on multi-system and multi-institution problems that Horn has been calling Social Messes. (For convenience, we use the terms Wicked Problems and Social Messes interchangeably.)
A short list of example Wicked Problems includes healthcare in the
Horn says that a Social Mess is a set of interrelated problems and other messes. Complexity—Systems of Systems—is among the factors that makes Social Messes so resistant to analysis and, more importantly, to resolution. We say resolution rather than solution. Like most important problems, Social Messes exist in a dynamic, changing world. Thus, ameliorative efforts may have substantial, yet impermanent effects.
The graphics above include Horn’s list of features that define Social Messes. For the sake of search engine spiders (that don’t index the content of graphics), we itemize them here:
- No unique “correct” view of the problem;
- Different views of the problem and contradictory solutions;
- Most problems are connected to other problems;
- Data are often uncertain or missing;
- Multiple value conflicts;
- Ideological and cultural constraints;
- Political constraints;
- Economic constraints;
- Often a-logical or illogical or multi-valued thinking;
- Numerous possible intervention points;
- Consequences difficult to imagine;
- Considerable uncertainty, ambiguity;
- Great resistance to change; and,
- Problem solver(s) out of contact with the problems and potential solutions.
The above graphicsare examples of the use of Visual Language, which combines graphical and textual elements with shapes to communicate. More about Visual Language in another posting.
Mess Mapping and Mess Map are trademarks of MacroVU, Inc.
Resolution Mapping is a trademark of Strategy Kinetics, LLC.