A keynote talk about aliens, nuclear waste, who we are, why we fail—and what unites us.
How do you solve the world’s hardest problems? And what do you do when they’re unsolvable?
As content strategists, we solve problems for real people with defined needs who live and work in the here and now. We take a holistic approach, dive into research, break down silos within our organizations, and create real value for people every single day.
But how does our work change when we’re planning content for projects that last for not one year, or even 10 years, but for 10,000 years or more? Enter the “Wicked Problem,” or situations with so much complexity, uncertainty, and interdependencies that—by definition—they can’t be solved.
Using real-world examples from NASA’s Voyager program, the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, and other long-term communications efforts, we’ll talk about the challenges of creating information that’s useful and usable for people whom we’ll never know in our lifetimes.
The answers to these problems give us a new perspective on our work, on the ambiguity we face every day, and on what it means to build messages that endure with meaning that lasts.
Originally presented as the opening keynote for the 2014 Society for Technical Communication Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. Redeveloped as the opening keynote for the 2015 Confab Central conference and presented on May 21, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.