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Conklin

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  • You can’t really solve a wicked problem, and it doesn’t work to avoid or tame them, but you can take them on: tackle them.
  • Shared understanding is the ‘holy grail’ of collaboration.
  • Authentic listening (awareness of your “already listening” that colors what you can hear)Transparency about your true concerns and interests.

Conklin Conklin Presentation Transcript

  • 1
    Creating shared commitmentin the political context
    Dr. Jeff Conklin
    CogNexus Institute
    cognexus.org
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    2
    Overview
    Wicked Problems
    Opportunity Driven Problem Solving
    Social Complexity
    Taming the Problem
    Tackling the Problem
    Dialogue
    Shared Understanding
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    3
    Utah History Fair, Utah State University
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    4
    History
    “Wicked problems” introduced by Horst Rittel
    “On the Planning Crisis: Systems Analysis of the ‘First and Second Generations”, 1972
    “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning”, 1973 (with M. Webber)
    10 defining characteristics
    E.g. “1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem”
    ‘Wicked’ = malignant, vicious, tricky, aggressive
    ‘Tame’ = benign, stable, straightforward, docile
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    5
    History
    “Wicked” reflects Rittel’s concern with ethics.
    “[It is unethical] for the planner to treat a wicked problem as though it were a tame one, or to tame a wicked problem prematurely, or to refuse to recognize the inherent wickedness of social problems.” (Rittel & Webber, Dilemmas, p. 161)
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    6
    Definition of Wicked Problems
    Each potential solution illuminates new aspects of the wicked problem.
    Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
    Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong.
    Every wicked problem is essentially unique and novel.
    Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation".
    Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions.
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    Gather data about the problem
    Analyze the data
    Formulate a solution
    Implement it
    Progress is viewed as a linear process …
    Problem
    Solution
    Time
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    9
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    10
    … but reality is non-linear.
    Guindon, R. (1990) “Designing the Design Process: Exploiting Opportunistic Thoughts”, Human-Computer Interaction, Vol. 5, pp. 305-344.
    Problem
    “Opportunity Driven” Problem Solving
    Solution
    Time
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    11
    • Late efforts to understand the real problem
    • Early attempts at solutions
    • Experiments
    • Prototypes
    • Hunches
    How We Humans Actually Approach Novel Problems
    • Design process is non-linear, ‘Opportunity-Driven’
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    12
    What is the problem? …
    What are the objectives? …
    What does ‘X’ mean? …
    What should we do? …
    What are the facts? …
    How should we do X? …
    Non-linear cognition means jumping around between issues
    Problem
    Solution
    Time
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    13
    Key Characteristic of “Wicked” Problems
    The red line fails on wicked problems!
    Conklin, J. (2006) “Wicked Problems and Social Complexity”, white paper, Chapter 1 of Dialogue Mapping book
    Versus "Tame Problems"
    Every proposed solution …
    … exposes new aspects of the problem.
    You have to “do” to “plan”.
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    14
    Social Complexity:A multiplier of problem wickedness
    Problem
    Solution
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    15
    Approaching a wicked problem: Evasion tactics
    “It’s not really a problem.”
    (Denial)
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    Approaching a wicked problem: Evasion tactics
    “It’s not my job.”“It’s not in our charter.”
    (Avoidance)
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    17
    Approaching a wicked problem: Evasion tactics
    “We understand the problem, and we’ve already solved it!”
    (Engineering)
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    18
    Approaching a wicked problem: Taming tactics
    Freeze the problem definition
    Get agreement on the problem statement, then block any further discussion about the problem
    Drawback: Blocks learning
    Drawback: Frustrates innovation
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    19
    Approaching a wicked problem: Taming tactics
    Narrow the options
    Start all meetings with a list of solutions that are “off the table”
    Drawback: Likely to eliminate robust solutions
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    20
    Approaching a wicked problem: Taming tactics
    Exclude difficult stakeholders
    Keep tight control on the meeting invitation process (for the sake of “progress”)
    Drawback: Don’t be surprised if the final solution gets blocked or sabotaged
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    21
    Approaching a wicked problem: Taming tactics
    Refocus on a smaller tame problem
    Pick a sub-problem that you’re confident you can solve
    Drawback: Early success, followed by ugly unintended consequences
    Drawback: The problem becomes more wicked
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    22
    Approaching a wicked problem: Taming tactics
    Outsource the problem-solving process
    Hire consultants who are experts on the problem
    Drawback: Don’t expect much buy-in … except from the consultants!
    Drawback: Beware Rittel’s “symmetry of ignorance”
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    23
    Tackling Wicked Problems
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    How to approach a wicked problem?
    Three strategies (Roberts):
    Authoritative: Power is given to individual or small group
    Competitive:Stakeholders compete for power and resources
    Collaborative:Alliance among stakeholders for win-win solutions
  • © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    25
    Three strategies for wicked problems
    Authoritative: Power is given to individual or small group
    Examples: an executive, a court
    Pro: Efficient, Timely
    Con: Brittle solutions that can ignore key issues
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    26
    Three strategies for wicked problems
    Competitive: Stakeholders compete for power and resources
    Example: When states compete for foreign and local investment
    Pro: Innovation
    Pro: Flexibility
    Con: Conflict and stalemates
    Con: Win-lose. Does not create shared commitment among stakeholders
    www.malaysiainfocus.com
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    27
    Three strategies for wicked problems
    Collaborative:Alliance among stakeholders for win-win solutions
    “Make those people who are being affected into participants of the planning process” (Rittel)
    Example: Partnerships, joint ventures
    Pro: More comprehensive solutions
    Pro: Higher stakeholder commitment
    Con: Increased transaction costs
    Con: Slow, unpredictable, time consuming
    www.mat.uc.pt
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    28
    Shared Understanding
    The Holy Grail of Collaboration
    Shared understanding is the bridge
    Collaboration and unity
    Fragmentation and conflict
    www.balsabridge.com
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    29
    Shared Understanding
    Shared understanding … of what?
    Purpose and objectives
    Who the stakeholders are
    What the problem is
    What the options are
    Constraints on the solution
    Deliberation and decision process
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    30
    Shared Understanding
    Shared understanding is *not* …
    agreement
    consensus
    group think
    www.danaellyn.com
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    31
    Shared Understanding
    What is shared is the range of perspectives among the stakeholders
    Stakeholders understand what the others need
    Each perspective is held as valid (if not “correct”)
    We agree to disagree
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    32
    How to Create Shared Understanding
    Dialogue
    Listening
    Transparency
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    The Physics of Shared Understanding
    Shared display creates shared understanding
    http://bama.ua.edu
  • Summary
    Wicked problems (novelty)
    Learning is non-linear
    Opportunity Driven Problem Solving
    Sequential approaches fail
    Taming the problem (ultimately) fails
    Shared understanding is essential
    Precursor to shared commitment
    Collaboration and dialogue are necessary but slow
    © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    34
  • Summary
    Wanted: A way to conduct dialogue (i.e. meetings) that…
    Is more efficient (avoids repetition, grand-standing, hand waving, etc.)
    Supports listening
    Tracks multiple perspectives
    Allows multiple issues to be explored in parallel
    © 2010 CogNexus Institute
    35
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    36
    Dialogue Mapping