First – About Wicked Problems
“Wicked problems have these features: It is hard to say what the problem is, to define it clearly, or to tell where it stops and starts. There is no “right” way to view the problem, no definitive formulation. The way it’s framed will change what the solution appears to be. Someone can always say that the problem is just a symptom of another problem, and that someone will not be wrong. There are many stakeholders, all with their own frames, which they tend to see as exclusively correct. Ask what the problem is and you will get a different answer from each. The problem is interconnected to a lot of other problems; pulling them apart is almost impossible.”
“It gets worse. Every wicked problem is unique … “
“Wicked problems demand people who are creative, pragmatic, flexible, and collaborative.”
Jay Rosen, Professor of Journalism – New York University; Author – ‘What Are Journalists For?’, (1999)
The above excerpts of Jay Rosen’s thoughts are from John Brockman’s ‘This Will Make You Smarter’, (2012)
Now – About Sticky Problems
Waterloo Intuition describes Sticky Problems as:
- Complicated/complex business problems. People are concerned about the problem even though they may not fully understand the extent of the problem’s implications/impact.
- Crucial problems that must be solved to ‘keep up with’ the pace of industry-sector change, grow, increase profitability, or gain advantage over competitors.
- Like Wicked Problems, problems that affect multiple stakeholders who have diverse ‘frames’ and needs. These diverse needs are not necessarily thought of as exclusively correct, however, they are thought of as very important keys to success.
- Like Wicked Problems, problems that demand people who are creative, pragmatic, flexible, and collaborative.
- Problems that have a limited lifespan. Sticky Problems are important but not necessarily urgent problems. When they become urgent problems, it is expensive to solve them because the business is too compromised to fix the damage quickly and/or make up the lost ground…unless the business is so well-funded it can weather and survive even perfect storms.
The people at …
… all businesses face day-to-day problems. These are a combination of general business problems [finance, HR, etc.] and industry- or sector-specific problems. Most of these problems are framed in urgency. Sometimes the problems are important or involve not-routine work/tasks, however, most day-to-day problems are not important, and the work/tasks are routine. Most problems are not Sticky Problems. For example, most problems do not require innovative or creative solutions, they just require good delivery of solutions that have worked in the past.
… all businesses that want to grow, improve, or be sustainable face both day-to-day problems and Sticky Problems. Many are not aware of their Sticky Problems. Some progressive small-to-mid-sized businesses are working to solve their Sticky Problems and disrupt their industry sector. Some progressive small- to mid-sized businesses are working to solve Wicked Problems to change the world or make a dent in the universe.
The people at …
… larger, more-complicated businesses face day-to-day problems, Sticky Problems, and Wicked Problems. Most large businesses are working to solve or at least thinking about solving their Sticky Problems. Some progressive large businesses are working to solve Wicked Problems to change the world or make a dent in the universe.