Wicked problems and design

We are living in a time when there is a lot of things to be concerned about. Pick up any area, and there are so many problems in each of them.  A lot of these problems are rooted at the society level, and there are always shortage of people who are working on these problems.

There is a lot of emphasis on business schools (and design schools) on the notion of Social Entrepreneurship too.

In the program that I run in India, majority of the applicants have a desire to work on atleast one project in the social space. They say that it is this opportunity that draws them to India. However not many are sure of what the problem space looks like, until they come to India. Many of these problems are Wicked Problems.

A problem whose solution requires a great number of people to change their mindsets and behavior is likely to be a wicked problem. These are found at large in socio, economic, environmental and political issues.

Today I was discussing with one of my interns in my company, who is working in the same domain; Design for Social Impact and working in the field of education. We talked a lot about the notion of Wicked problem and its application in Design and how designers can address the challenges it presents.

Rittel and Webber’s 1973 formulation of wicked problems in social policy planning specified ten characteristics: (reference)

(1) Wicked problems have no definitive formulation, but every formulation of a wicked problem corresponds to the formulation of a solution. (2) Wicked problems have no stopping rules. (3) Solutions to wicked problems cannot be true or false, only good or bad. (4) In solving wicked problems there is no exhaustive list of admissible operations. (5) . . . → Read More: Wicked problems and design