Grappling With Wickedness: How the design process REALLY works and what we should do about it


Published on

A mismatch between reality and expectations in how the creative design process works generates a lot of pain in organizations that depend on it to accomplish their work. This presentation draws on the work of Dr. Jeff Conklin to explain the source of the pain, and what might be done about it.

Published in: Design, Business
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Grappling With Wickedness: How the design process REALLY works and what we should do about it

  1. 1. Grappling with Wickedness How the Design Process REALLY Works, and What We Should Do About It. Presented by: Gregory Wharton , AIA RIBA NCARB LEED ® AP
  2. 2. Feeling the Hurt <ul><li>We experience “ Organizational Pain ” as we try to navigate the complexities of the Design Process. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Frustration with Outcomes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Loss of Profitability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Alienation of Clients and Stakeholders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Inability to Satisfy Expectations </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. What is “Organizational Pain?” <ul><li>Feelings & Perceptions </li></ul><ul><li>Frustration </li></ul><ul><li>Resignation </li></ul><ul><li>Disorientation </li></ul><ul><li>Uncertainty </li></ul><ul><li>Chaos </li></ul><ul><li>Reaction </li></ul><ul><li>Exhaustion </li></ul><ul><li>Overload </li></ul><ul><li>Indecision </li></ul><ul><li>Wasted Effort </li></ul><ul><li>Symptoms & Measures </li></ul><ul><li>The Blame Game </li></ul><ul><li>Fruitless Meetings </li></ul><ul><li>Pressure to Cut Costs </li></ul><ul><li>Unproductive Repetition </li></ul><ul><li>Parallel Efforts </li></ul><ul><li>Opposing Efforts </li></ul><ul><li>Hierarchical Rigidity </li></ul><ul><li>Miscommunication </li></ul><ul><li>Risk Avoidance </li></ul><ul><li>Fragmentation </li></ul>“ We always have time to do things over again, but never time to do them right.” - overheard office complaint
  4. 4. Where does the pain come from? <ul><li>Disconnect between expectations and reality. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Our idea of what is versus what is . </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Why is the source of the pain hidden? <ul><li>The Blind Spot : We have been taught that the sources of the pain </li></ul><ul><ul><li>do not exist, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>are imaginary, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>are insignificant, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>are irrelevant. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This does not make them any less real. </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. The Expectation <ul><li>The linear “Waterfall Model” of problem solving </li></ul>
  7. 7. The Expectation <ul><li>The linear “Waterfall Model” of problem solving </li></ul>WRONG
  8. 8. The Reality <ul><li>Actual problem-solving process (“seismograph”) </li></ul><ul><li>per the MCC/Guindon Study </li></ul>
  9. 9. Expectations vs. Reality: Mismatch <ul><li>Mismatch between expectation and reality </li></ul>
  10. 10. Expectations vs. Reality: Mismatch <ul><li>Increasing mismatch with more participants </li></ul>
  11. 11. Source of the Mismatch <ul><li>There are two different sorts of problems: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tame : clearly defined and solvable using a linear process to reach a single “right” answer. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wicked : evolving set of interlocking issues and constraints with no clear definition and no “right” answer. </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Source of the Mismatch <ul><li>Tame problems are susceptible to linear analysis ( static ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Linear analysis tools and methods are well developed, so we prefer tame problems </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Trapped by the paradigm: If your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Wicked problems are inherently non-linear ( dynamic ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Non-linear problem-solving tools and methods are not well developed and are often incompatible with linear analysis </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Tame Problems <ul><li>Examples of Tame Problems: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Mathematical equations and calculations (no matter how complicated) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Most issues of scientific investigation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Parametric Analysis </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Wicked Problems <ul><li>Examples of Wicked Problems: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Should the Alaskan Way Viaduct be rebuilt using a tunnel? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Formulate our company mission statement. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Should the US be fighting a war in Iraq? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Design a building and get it built. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Naming the Pain <ul><li>The traditional approach to solving wicked problems is to ignore their “wickedness” and treat them as if they were tame (i.e. use linear analysis tools and methods to address them). </li></ul><ul><li>This approach is the source of most of the pain in organizations that deal with wicked problems: mistaking the map for the territory - a mismatch between expectation ( tame ) and reality ( wicked ). </li></ul>
  16. 16. The Designer’s Predicament <ul><li>Develop good solutions to wicked problems that serve key goals and provide value while satisfying diverse stakeholders and staying within schedule and resource limitations. </li></ul><ul><li>Easy…right? </li></ul>
  17. 17. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>No definitive formulation of the problem and changing constraints </li></ul><ul><li>Solutions are not “true-false” but “good-bad” </li></ul><ul><li>Numerous causal explanations </li></ul><ul><li>Many stakeholders </li></ul><ul><li>No definitive set of potential solutions </li></ul><ul><li>No stopping rule </li></ul><ul><li>Solutions have no immediate or ultimate test </li></ul><ul><li>Implemented solutions have consequences </li></ul><ul><li>Every problem is essentially unique </li></ul><ul><li>Every wicked problem can be considered a symptom of another problem </li></ul><ul><li>The problem solver has no “right” to be wrong </li></ul>per Dr. Horst Rittel & Dr. Melvin Webber, in “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning” 1972
  18. 18. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>There is no definitive statement of the problem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>You don’t understand the problem until you have developed a solution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Each proposed solution changes the constraints which currently define the problem, thus presenting a new problem </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>Proposed solutions are not “true-false” but “good-bad” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There is a continuum of solutions which address the problem. Many of those solutions may be “good” while none may be “right” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The success of any solution must not only address the current understanding of the problem, but also be acceptable to stakeholders as “good enough” </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>There are many stakeholders </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Numerous people have something at stake in the solution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Stakeholder acceptance of a solution is often more important than “right answers” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This makes the problem solving process fundamentally social , with a high dependence on communication and collaboration . Wicked problems cannot be addressed in isolation. </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>Numerous causal explanations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>For each stakeholder, there will be different and changing ideas of what might be generating the problem and how to resolve it </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>There is no definitive set of potential solutions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Different stakeholders will have differing views of what makes a solution acceptable </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Determining the point at which enough potential solutions have emerged from the process is a matter of judgment, not parametric criteria </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>There is no “stopping rule” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The solution process for addressing wicked problems has no natural endpoint </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Since the problem itself cannot be readily defined and is constantly changing, it is difficult to tell when it is resolved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The process typically “ends” when: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Resources available are depleted </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Stakeholders lose interest </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Time runs out </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 24. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>Solutions have no immediate or ultimate test </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Proposed solutions generate waves of unpredicted consequences </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Often, the only available means of solution testing is Trial and Error </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>Implemented solutions have consequences </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Once a solution is proposed or tried, its consequences are often irreversible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Trap Door Logic” </li></ul></ul>
  26. 26. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>Every problem is unique </li></ul><ul><ul><li>There are no “classes” of solutions which can be applied to specific cases </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Each wicked problem exists in a unique and shifting “problem space” in which all participants attempt to crystallize workable (and sometimes competing) solutions </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>Every wicked problem can be considered a symptom of another problem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>As an interlocking set of issues and constraints which change over time in a social context, every wicked problem is itself part of, results from, and creates other problems in infinite recursion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This follows from the lack of natural endpoints and the shifting of constraints </li></ul></ul>
  28. 28. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>The problem solver has no “right” to be wrong </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Problem solvers are expected to provide good solutions immediately </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Failures are not constructive, and failure testing is often impossible. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Failure can prevent future success rather than creating it </li></ul></ul>
  29. 29. What Makes a Problem Wicked? <ul><li>How to spot a wicked problem: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Look for Divergence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Requirements are volatile </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Constraints are changing </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Stakeholder agreement is difficult </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Many stakeholders are involved </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Moving targets </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Little to show for a large effort </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Anything that requires creative input </li></ul></ul></ul>
  30. 30. The Bad News <ul><li>By practicing architecture, nearly every problem we face is Wicked , not Tame. All the easy problems have been solved. All the low-hanging fruit has been picked. </li></ul><ul><li>Our standard work process is based on an obsolete, linear model of problem solving (the standard AIA phases) </li></ul><ul><li>Our current business model doesn’t easily accommodate non-linearity (impacting our profitability) </li></ul>
  31. 31. The Good News <ul><li>Architects are better adapted by training and temperament to handle wicked problems than virtually anybody else: we’re already trained to design in a non-linear way </li></ul><ul><li>We can adjust our expectations to reality </li></ul><ul><li>We can educate our clients and stakeholders </li></ul><ul><li>Our business model can be adapted to accommodate non-linearity in the work process </li></ul>
  32. 32. The Challenge <ul><li>“ The challenge for knowledge organizations is learning and innovation. Mere prediction and control, while still important, won’t cut it any more.” </li></ul><ul><li>E. Jeffrey Conklin, PhD – The Age of Design </li></ul>