Problems, Messes & Wicked Messes
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Problems, Messes & Wicked Messes

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Ken Homer, Principal, Collaborative Conversations and David Hodgson, Converger, International Futures Forum, Principal and Founding Member, The IdeaHive, talk about the transformative value ...

Ken Homer, Principal, Collaborative Conversations and David Hodgson, Converger, International Futures Forum, Principal and Founding Member, The IdeaHive, talk about the transformative value collaborative conversation brings to individuals, organizations and government.

Ken and David share one-of-a-kind perspectives, knowledge and stories about the powerful value of collaborative conversation to advance a meaningful society.

Ken is a Collaborative Coach and Consultant, and Principal of Collaborative Conversations, Adjunct Faculty-Mentor at New Ventures West, and Consultant, Facilitator and Coach at Omega Point International. Ken is past Director of Community Outreach, The World Cafe Foundation.

We wish to thank Ken and David for their generous contribution of knowledge and wisdom to the I-Open community.

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Problems, Messes & Wicked Messes Problems, Messes & Wicked Messes Document Transcript

  • Interview and transcription June 19, 2010Ken Homer, Collaborative ConversationsWith David Hodgson, IdeaHive and International Futures ForumChapter 10Problems, Messes & Wicked MessesVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17783272 [00:05:10]David Hodgson: It would seem that’s one of those things that would be avery good thing to do in many different places. What this brings to mind forme is what you call “wicked messes” and what you do is about dealing withwicked messes, so maybe you should talk about that.Ken Homer: So, as I’ve been developing this work over the years, one ofthe things that occurred to me was a lot of people are really great problemsolvers, which is wonderful, we need good problem solvers in the world.But most people’s defaults stance is to look at the world as a set ofproblems out there. And so when we see something like, just chooseanything, we live in San Francisco so we have a homeless problem. But, isit really a homeless “problem”? It’s actually a homeless mess. Nowproblems, messes and wicked messes are the terms that I use and messesand wicked messes might sound whimsical but they actually go back to1970’s some German guy’s name Horst and someone else, they kind ofinvented these terms. And basically, the distinctions that I use which arevery simple, they’ve got some you know, long German terms on Wikipediaaround this. The distinction is that a problem is something that is discretethat can be solved and once it’s solved you don’t have to solve it again andCopyright 2010 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-Noncommercial- No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
  • 2it shows up in certain domains: like in Math there’s problems, in logicthere’s problems, in rock climbing there’s problems, in finance, in puzzlesolving and stuff like that. One of the conditions of people who solveproblems is they love to talk to each other about how their doing. Problemssolvers love to talk to each other. But, a lot of times we have problems thatcan’t be solved and that’s an indication that we’re actually dealing with amess. So, messes are systems where things are connected but ofteninvisibly, so something over here that is broken or that gets jiggled withaffects something over there that doesn’t show up for three months there’sthese hidden feedback loops and it requires a very different approach. Youhave to have a systems based approach so you get cross-disciplinaryteams, you need systems modeling, and again, communication amongpeople working on this tends to be very high because they love to explorewhat’s going on. Wicked messes takes a mess and couples it with cultureand so when you’ve got different cultures who refuse to talk to each otheror even acknowledge each other’s existence or even acknowledge thelegitimacy of each other, then you have a wicked mess. Because now youhave all the problems that you have with the problem plus a system, so youhave high systems complexity and you have high social complexity. Whenyou’re dealing with a problem, a problem mindset by itself is great. Whenyou have a problem and a mess with a problem mindset, that’s not greatand when you’re dealing with a wicked mess a problem mindset alwaysmakes it much more messy. And wicked in this case means highly resistantto intervention. It’s not a pejorative term, it just means it’s really, you know,there’s all these dynamics in place that make it very, very resistant tochange. And so, what I’ve worked out is a way of approaching it that is notproblem based, but rather it’s messed based. So, in order to deal with amess you need to create intelligence. My experience of working with largegroups is that there are ways to create intelligence in large groups byasking the right questions and supporting it with the right process. Often Iuse something based on World Café, I do a lot of work with Peter Block’swork from “Community: The Structure of Belonging” he uses people inclusters of three. I run Open Space, I combine those, I use what I call,Small A of Appreciative Inquiry, which is not the full you know, Do andDream and Design piece of t four steps in Appreciative Inquiry, but just kindof cheery picking from the best. David Cooperrider said in all his work hediscovered a couple of very important truths. One of which is that the mostCopyright 2010 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-Noncommercial- No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
  • 3important questions you can ask are not what’s wrong and who’s to blame,but what matters and who cares and that people grow in the direction of thequestions that they’re asked. So, if you ask someone a question thatmakes them defensive, you’re going to grow defensiveness. If you asksomeone a question that is appreciative of their experience that makesthem cast their mind to a time when they succeeded and bring forward thelessons and the qualities and you do that in a group you can generate ahuge amount of intelligence in a very short time and then you have a wayto get that group to work together thinking about new issues that theyhaven’t had to deal with before from a real base of strength and creativitythat if you simply went in and dropped it in as a problem and said, “Analyzethis and find a solution” you wouldn’t get to.”David Hodgson: That’s really cool. Ken, is there anything else you’d like tosay?Our generous thanks to Ken Homer and David Hodgsonhttp://collaborativeconversations.com/The Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open)4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Floor Cleveland Ohio 44103 USACopyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open Creative Commons LicenseAttribution-Noncommercial No Derivative Works 3.0 United StatesKeywordsCollaboration, collaborative conversations, collective-intelligence, creativity,critical-thinking, dialogue, dissent, problems, inclusion, indigenous-wisdom,large-group-process, leadership, listening, messes, perspective, wickedmesses, somatic-intelligence, systems, trust, questions, community,organizations, emergence, culture, dreams, desires, conflict, world-caféInterview IndexChapter 1: Collaborative ConversationsVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17768120 [00:55:35]Transcription Link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/45695026/Ken-Homer-Collaborative-Conversations-Interview-06-19-2010Copyright 2010 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-Noncommercial- No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
  • 4Chapter 2: The Power of Conversation: Simple But Not EasyVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17775503 [00:04:48]Chapter 3: Conversations in OrganizationsVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17776383 [00:10:55]Chapter 4: Conversations & ConflictVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17777358 [00:05:39]Chapter 5: Conversation & ListeningVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17779351 [00:05:20]Chapter 6: Oral TraditionsVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17780722 [00:04:43]Chapter 7: Conversational Shared MeaningVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17780985 [00:04:50]Chapter 8: Conversation & PossibilityVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17782427 [00:03:50]Chapter 9: Organizations & Shared MeaningVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17782832 [00:07:16]Chapter 10: Problems, Messes & Wicked MessesVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17783272 [00:05:10]Chapter 11: StoriesVideo Link: http://www.vimeo.com/17783665 [00:02:38]Reference Links Ken Homer on Twitter http://twitter.com/ken_homer Collaborative Conversations http://collaborativeconversations.com/ New Ventures West http://www.newventureswest.com/ Omega Point International http://omegapoint.net/ The World Cafe Community Foundation http://www.theworldcafe.com/wccf.htmCopyright 2010 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-Noncommercial- No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
  • 5 David Hodgson on Twitter http://twitter.com/davidhodgson International Futures Forum http://www.internationalfuturesforum.com/ The IdeaHive http://theideahive.com/Learn from the wisdom of civic leaders across these I-Opencommunities: Facebook I-Open http://tiny.cc/odlg2 Flickr http://tiny.cc/73y6e Friendfeed http://friendfeed.com/iopen Livestream http://www.livestream.com/iopen/ Posterous http://i-open.posterous.com/ Scribd http://www.scribd.com/I-Open Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/IOpen2 Strategy-Nets http://tiny.cc/km04y Twitter http://twitter.com/iopen2 Vimeo http://tiny.cc/106p0 You Tube http://tiny.cc/j5rsePhotos by Alice MerkelOn Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/alice_merkels_photos/Copyright 2010 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution-Noncommercial- No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA