Operationalizing wicked problem solving to create desirable futures


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  • AuthorsAcknowledgements STINT (Linkoeping), Krassie (HETL Review)London SOASManchester Archicture - pragmatism
  • This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of “Dilemmas in a general theory of planning” (1973), a seminal paper in which Rittel and fellow planning professor Melvin Webber formallypresented the thesis that numerous problems in planning, management, and policy-making are by nature wicked, and stand in sharp contrast to the problems of engineering and sciences. They identified 10 properties typical of wicked problems,There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem.Wicked problems have no stopping rule.Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but good or bad.There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one-shot operation"; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.Every wicked problem is essentially unique.Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's resolution.The planner has no right to be wrong (i.e.: Planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate). each of which can be seen as a consequence or a specific instance of at least one of the following five characteristics.Indeterminacy in problem formulation—the precise formulation of a wicked problem as a problem with unique and determinate satisfaction conditions is virtually impossible because the values and interests of concerned and affected parties are diverse, often in conflict with one another, and change over time and across generations.Non-definitiveness in problem solution—a rigorous and ultimate solution to a wicked problem with definitive results is unattainablebecause neither the problem nor the repercussions of its solution are determinate. The latter is best described by Rittel and Webber as “The full consequences [of a solution] cannot be appraised until the waves of repercussions have completely run out, and we have no way of tracing the waves through all the affected lives ahead of time or within a limited time span” (Rittel & Webber, 1973, p.163).Non-solubility—wicked problems can never be solved because of the first two characteristics. Unlike “tame problems” that are determinate with clear goal(s) and a definite set of well-defined rules (like those in mathematics, engineering, and chess), and are thus ultimately soluble (eliminable), wicked problems may be suppressed or even overcome, but cannot be eliminated. In different and often more wicked forms, they will recur. Therefore, “[a]t best they are only re-solved—over and over again” (Rittel & Webber, 1973, p.160).Irreversible consequentiality—every implemented solution to a wicked problem is consequential, often triggering ripple effectsthroughout the entire socio-ecological system that are neither reversible, nor stoppable. Large scale ecological projects (e.g., greenways, parks, reservoirs, natural reserves, wild life habitats, and riparian buffers), public works projects (e.g., freeways, airports, dams, and subways), and implemented environmental policies (e.g., the Clean Air Act in the United States, and the Chinesenational policy of cross-region water resources transfer—“Nan ShuiBeiDiao”) all “leave[s] ‘traces’ that cannot be undone” (Rittel & Webber, 1973, p.163).Individual uniqueness—despite likely similarities among wicked problems, there always is one or more distinguishing property of overriding importance that makes an individual problem and its solution(s) essentially one-of-a-kind. There are therefore no classes of wicked problems, nor immediately transferable solutions.Wide acceptance of this viewpoint for many of what Simon called the artificial sciencesAPS Tackling wicked problems : A public policy perspectiveSee http://www.apsc.gov.au/publications-and-media/archive/publications-archive/tackling-wicked-problemsMoving, however from the general acceptance of the wicked nature of many societal, political and environmental issues to the development of heuristics and tools that can practically manage the messiness has proved more difficult. Tools and models do exist for the collective outlining of the relevant problem spaces and the tracing of solution options. These practical translations of wicked principles into working tools have helped to depict and clarify the complex often interdependent nature of problem causes and effects. At this heuristic level, ill structured wicked problempathways become a string of interconnected discrete structured component problems and possibilities.
  • Coyne (2005)A looming crisis in the credibility of theprofessions (Coyne 2005) – raitonality and scientific methodSimon, Rittel & webber, Polanyi, KuhnThree responses: pragmatic response to practice-theory and rationality – narrative response *but tis is false dialogue is integral to pragmatism – conversation etcMisunderstanding is also rife so Dorst (2006) thinks Simon is proposing a rational problem solving approach to designBounded rationality is a limitation to economic decision making or decision making in general another contribution from Simon but Dorst thinks it matters to design methodology – wrongSooMeng has noticed some of these confusions, in her SooMeng, J. C. (2009). Donald Schön, Herbert Simon and The Sciences of the Artificial. Design Studies, 30(1), 60–68. doi:10.1016/j.destud.2008.09.001Abductiveinferencing (Pierce etc) pragmatism is a philosophical connection between principles and desirable futures – moral grounds for decsioins (Dewey), James tracing consequencesLack of attention to practical consequences allows for principles remaining on abstract levelsHerbert Simon was similarly concerned with the limitations of conventional empiricist approaches to the design sciences of management, social planning and architecture. In Sciences of the Artificial, Simon described a wide range of sciences of the artificial, including management, architecture, social planning, and others, as those concerned precisely with ill structured problems demanding artificial designed answers. Simon added that the overall aim of fields concerned with social and biophysicaldesign was to construct desirable futures.Recently there has been an increasing awareness of the value of taking creative designerly approaches into a range of service spaces, organization spaces, and community spaces. Thus, the agenda for creating desirable futures out of 'messy' wicked problems has moved front and center, helping to tie Simon¹s and Rittel & Weber's agendas together. Of course many others have seen or made the connection between both positions and rather than dichotomizing them into the rational empiricist Simon versus the qualitative non-raiotnalistsRittel & webber we stress the historical contiguity of both figures and the problems they were dealing with, which are scientific if one understands the distinction between conventional an artificial (design) sciences as formulated by Simon(not R& W)In this paper, we return to the origins of the debate about applied science in the work of Herbert Simon and Rittel & Weber before moving to discussing the role of designing desirable futures. Ideation, concepting and prototyping in design thinking and integrative design approaches attempt to map not only what is but also what should be, an imperative linking back also to the pragmatic agendas of William James, John Deweyand others.Simons achievements in and contributions to behavioural economics, computer science, artificial intelligence, etc., manifold and far exceed those of R&W.
  • Moving, however from the general acceptance of the wicked nature of many societal, political and environmental issues to the development of heuristics and tools that can practically manage the messiness has proved more difficult. Tools and models do exist for the collective outlining of the relevant problem spaces and the tracing of solution options. These practical translations of wicked principles into working tools have helped to depict and clarify the complex often interdependent nature of problem causes and effects. At this heuristic level, ill structured wicked problempathways become a string of interconnected discrete structured component problems and possibilities. In his 1972 paper,[14]Rittel hints at a collaborative approach; one which attempts, "…to make those people who are being affected into participants of the planning process . They are not merely asked but actively involved in the planning process…" A disadvantage of this approach is that achieving a shared understanding and commitment to solving a wicked problem is a time-consuming process. Research over the last two decades has shown the value of computer assisted argumentation techniques in improving the effectiveness of cross-stakeholder communication.[15] The technique of dialogue mapping has been used in tackling wicked problems in organizations using a collaborative approach.[16]Horn, Robert E., and Robert P. Weber; "New Tools For Resolving Wicked Problems: Mess Mapping and Resolution Mapping Processes", Strategy Kinetics L.L.C., 2007
  • We illustrate our argument with two specific case studies. The first is a case of desirable futures for elderly people in Ljura (a part of Norrköping in Sweden). The case draws a picture of how designerly approaches map what is and build towards what should be as the strategy of choice for wicked problems. We highlight not only the cogeneration of an adequate understanding of the problem space but also the development of alternative futures through design. The second is a case of complementary design dialogues in urban planning, in this case planning a new part of Linköping (in Sweden). The case starts out showing how traditional design dialogues based on architect competitions and community/citizen dialogues on the architectural solutions favors the transition of wicked problems into physical representations. It then continues to show how representations of how life will be played out in this urban area can work as a complementary design dialogue, in this case how a desirable future for people co-creating sustainable urban growing in the city may play out.
  • New Tools for Health is a cluster in East Sweden aiming to create new products and services for efficient home healthcare and increased independence. During the time for the project (2007-2008) there was a specific focus on the future development of the residential area Ljura in Norrköping. The area is south of the city centre of Norrköping and it was developed in the 1950‘s during the social-democratic modernistic movement to planning and development in Sweden (Swe. ‘folkhemmet’). In the northwest part of the area there is a local centre with smaller stores. When the area was built it housed many families with children and over the years this shifted to an older population. Today there are again more families and also people with an immigrant background living in the area. There are about 2.000 residents in Ljura. The houses form a rectangular frame around a park with a playground and a pond. New Tools for Health were in a stage where it was important for them to identify interesting market and customer segments, and get to know the target group that will use and be affected by their services and products. The development work in Ljura was connected to the need for knowledge about users that the New Tools for Health had. The purpose of the project was to, in a design-oriented way, develop knowledge about potential users in Ljura using personas and put them into present-day scenarios as well as future scenarios.
  • The values of personas that New Tools for Health identified were that they could give a common ground for communication, increase awareness of and focus on users, and make the target group more explicit. Personas put into scenarios provide conditions to create useful and appropriate products and services users accept, use, and appreciate.Two personas were developed and their names were Greta and Torsten. They had originally been created by Ernfridsson and Hagberg (2007) on behalf of New Tools for Health, and the design team from Linköping University and SICS East Swedish ICT (then called Santa Anna IT Research Institute) subsequently added new content and portrayed them in a more lively manner using visual scenarios in the form of comics to describe and animate problems encountered in Greta’s and Torsten’s everyday life. The two personas were based on a long series of interviews and observations with elderly people and people in their environment. Along with various reports and documents, it provides a solid foundation for them. Greta and Torsten are fictional characters that represent an important user category for New Tools for Health. One of the authors of this paper acted as project manager and another of authors acted as supervisor for a team of three master students in design. This case has previously been described in more detail in a project report (in Swedish) [Arvola, Holmlid, Nygard, Segelström & Wentzel, 2008].
  • The work in the project included both research and ideation of desirable futures. Various methods were used to allow intended users contribute with ideas that could be used in design. The design team could identify problematic situations in the users everyday life, but also things that worked really well for them. The designers used a number of methods beyond interviews as a way to bring in different types of information:Post cards: Postcards were used as a way to make participants discuss life in the residential area. The postcards encouraged the participants to tell the designers how it was to live in the area, and they were stamped and addressed to one of the designers. The returned postcards included personal descriptions of everyday life. In general, many cards pointed to the importance of the park in Ljura.Dialogues around maps: Interviews were conducted with a map as a shared focus. Interviewees were asked to identify and describe a specific place perceived as good and another place perceived as poor. The map served as a means to deepen and direct the informal interview. Again the importance of the park was highlighted, and it was also noted that another nearby residential area was perceived as negative since many unruly persons from that area passed Ljura on their way home or on their way to the city centre.Group interviews: Elderly people who use home healthcare services were interviewed in groups. Insights gained included tensions between the home as a place for working vs. a place for living; how relatives have difficulties to find space and time for relaxation and leisure; and tensions between relatives and nursing staff. Other problem areas discussed were disturbing neighbours, unlit streets, and expensive rents associated with renovations.Informalobservations and interviews: Short-term observations were conducted to get firsthand experiences of, for example, the poorly lit park. Informal interviews were held with people on the street and at the local restaurant. The focus was on people’s experiences with the area, and insights include that many found that the was becoming area noisy and rowdy during evenings. Many ideas from participants pointed towards their own interests such as kennels, sport fields, and playgrounds.Walking quiz: During the interviews the designers realized that the elderly paprticularly enjoyed going on a walking quiz (Swe. ‘tipspromenad’), which is a typical Swedish activity, often held at social gatherings. The goal is to answer a number of multiple-choice questions spread out along a trail to walk. Contestants walk in small groups and try to answer the questions individually or in teams. The end question is usually some kind of tiebreaker like for example guessing the number of pebbles in a jar. The contestant with most correct answers and closest answer to the tie-breaker wins a symbolic prize. The design team got the opportunity to use the walking quiz as a survey on attitudes to the neighbourhood. Qualitative data was gathered by walking together with groups around the trail and participating in the conversation. This also gave the design team a walkthrough of the area by elderly people living there. The walking quiz has been described in more detail in another paper [Segelström, Raijmakers & Holmlid, 2009].Personas and scenarios: Archetypical user profiles (i.e. personas) were used together with scenarios to map out the present situation and sketching visions for desirable future scenarios. Examples of end-results are given below.
  • Two personas were made: Greta and Torsten. A shortened version of Torsten is included below in Figure 1 and in the text below the figure. Problematic present day scenarios were also depicted in cartoon-like storyboard format. These visual scenarios functioned as inspiration for design. Articulating, showing, naming and creating characters of intended users, and placing them into visual stories facilitated engagement in the context of everyday life. Creating storyboards also gave rise to new design ideas. The storyboards depicted and framed not only concrete problematic situations, but also feelings and emotions in in sometimes a surreal fashion.
  • Below follows a couple of problematic present day scenarios. The first one describes the tough job of home care personnel and how the residents can experience the constant flow of new caregivers, whom they never have met before (Figure 2).
  • Nygard]The second scenario ()Figure 3 is not really depicting a real situation, but rather a feeling of often unwarranted insecurity in the park during evenings. The feeling mainly builds on news and rumours rather than facts and personal experiences.
  • Just like the problematic present day scenarios, the desirable future scenarios were also depicted using cartoon-like storyboards. The scenario shown in Figure 4 is called Who gives care? and it is a response to the scenario Tough job depicted in Figure 2. It describes the use of mobile technology in the home setting of the caretakers, and it aims at resolving some of the tensions between care givers and relatives.
  • Operationalizing wicked problem solving to create desirable futures

    1. 1. Gavin Melles, Faculty of Design, Swin bur ne Univers i ty, Austral i a Stefan Holm l id , Computer Science Department , Linköp i ng Univers i ty, Sweden Mattias Arvola, Computer Science Department Linköp i ng Univers i ty, Sweden OPERATIONALIZING WICKED PROBLEM SOLVING TO CREATE DESIRABLE FUTURES: THE DESIGN AGENDA
    2. 2. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of “Dilemmas in a general theory of planning” (1973), a seminal paper in which Rittel and fellow planning professor Melvin Webber formally presented the thesis that numerous problems in planning, management, and policy-making are by nature wicked, and stand in sharp contrast to the problems of engineering and sciences. They identified 10 properties typical of wicked problems 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 2 MULTIPLE REASONS TO ENVISION
    3. 3.  Indeterminacy in problem formulation  Non-definitiveness in problem solution  Non-solubility  Irreversible consequentiality  Individual uniqueness 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 3 40 YEARS AGO TODAY …
    4. 4. 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 4 SIMON VS.RITTEL & WEBER? POPULAR CONFUSIONS AND MISUNDERSTANDINGS
    5. 5.  Engineering, medicine, business, architecture, and painting are concerned not with the necessary but with the contingent not with how things are but with how they might be in short, with design  Artificial systems and adaptive systems have properties that make them particularly susceptible to simulation via simplified models .  We have usually thought of city planning as a means whereby the planner's creative activity could build a system that would satisfy the needs of a populace. Perhaps we should think of city planning as a valuable creative activity in which many members of a community can have the opportunity of participating if we have wits to organize the process that way .  Design for distant futures would be wholly impossible if remote events had to be envisioned in detail. What makes such design even conceivable is that we need to know or guess about the future only enough to guide the commitments we must make today.  We can view the matter quite symmetrically. An artifact can be thought of as a meeting point an "interface" in today's terms between an "inner" environment, the substance and organization of the artifact itself, and an ''outer" environment, the surroundings in which it operates. If the inner environment is appropriate to the outer environment, or vice versa, the artifact will serve its intended purpose. Thus , if the clock is immune to buffeting, it will serve as a ship's chronometer.  Feedback mechanisms, on the other hand, by continually responding to discrepancies between a system's actual and desired states, adapt it to long-range fluctuations in the environment without forecasting. In whatever directions the environment changes, the feedback adjustment tracks it, with of course some delay.  Thus the traditional definition of the professional's role is highly compatible with bounded rationality, which is most comfortable with problems having clear -cut and limited goals. But as knowledge grows, the role of the professional comes under questioning. Developments in technology give professionals the power to produce larger and broader effects at the same time that they become more clearly aware of the remote consequences of their prescriptions. 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 5 CONTINGENCY, ARTEFACTS, AND SOME OTHER (ECONOMIC) THOUGHTS
    6. 6. In spite of its many achievements, however, working with wicked problems is still an evolving and, to a large extent, emerging enterprise in a stage of enlightenment. Much of its research and scholarship, as substantive as it may seem, remains largely a repetitive description of the social reality of wickedness, rather than well-grounded theoretical explorations or empirical investigations. The focus has been placed upon raising awareness, preaching for acceptance, and advocating creative adaptation strategies and innovative approaches. But little has been reported on exactly how these ideas and proposed approaches can be operationalized 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 6 PROBLEM
    7. 7.  How to get from principles to practice  Dialogue, collaboration and technology  Participation hinted at in Rittel & Weber  Central to social planning and the resolution of the human-centred problems of the artificial sciences 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 7 OPERATIONALISING: COLLABORATION, VISUALISATION, DIALOGUE
    8. 8. 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 8 CASE STUDIES IN URBAN SPACES IN LINKOPING
    9. 9.  New tools for health is an cluster based in East Sweden, the aim of which is to create new products and services that result in more efficient healthcare and increased independence – with the home as a base. In partnership with other stakeholders that support innovation, we support mobile solutions based on information and communication technology within four focus areas: patients with diabetes and heart failure, as well as fall prevention and to ensure that the elderly feel safe and socially included. The ideas may come from companies, innovators, researchers or employees in working in the care/healthcare sector. 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 9 CASE 1: PROJECT BACKGROUND http://www.newtoolsforhealth.com/
    10. 10.  A persona is an archetypical users based primarily on ethnographic studies of real users. A persona consists usually of a couple of pages of description of demographics, behavioural patterns, goals, abilities, attitudes and environments, as well as personal details that are included to make the persona come to life. It is also given a name to make it easy to refer to and envision as a real person. (Blomquist & Arvola, 2002; Cooper, 1999; Pruitt & Adlin, 2006) 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 10 FOCUS ON PERSONAS
    11. 11. Postcards Dialogues around maps Group interviews Informal observations and interviews Walking quiz Personas and scenarios 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 11 (PARTICIPATORY) DESIGN PROCESS
    12. 12.  There is nothing wrong with the memory so far. Then it's worse with night vision. Torsten works out regularly together with some friends. He has seen some old people who were alone and stopped eating properly. Anna, his wife, is feeling much better now than before when she was in great pain. She relies less on the walker now. There is luckily an elevator in the house.  Torsten want contact with government officials, pharmacy or doctor in person. Phone is all right, but it's better to meet them. He says: ”As long as I can go to a pharmacy and I will do you so.” Since Anna became ill, the apartment is full of assistive equipment, and it occasionally goes wrong when using it.  They live in a rental apartment of 72 square meters, two rooms and a kitchen. The area is good but it feels a little less safe than it did before.  Torsten has a cell phone. The first one he got from one of the sons who would buy a new one. He is not so interested in trying out services supported by mobile phone or computer. Actually, he doesn’t have a computer. Torsten understands well how mechanical engineering works, but the new technology is more difficult. He uses a manual when he will learn something, or he wants to be told face -to-face how new things work. Sometimes he gets help from the children. It is worrying if the technology makes direct human contact decrease. 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 12 MAPPING WHAT IS Figure 1. Torsten, senior gentleman, born 1926 and married to Anna [Illustrator: Stefan Nygard]
    13. 13.  Figure 2. Tough job. Åke comes to hel Anna up and says, ”God morining!” ”Oh, who are you?, she replays. Åke thinks, ”these things always work differently”. ”Ouch, my arm!”, Anna says as Åke helps her up. ”oops,” he thinks, ”I didn’t know she had a sore arm”. ”My name is Anna”, Anna says. ”Too bad I don’t have time to get to know them better, but... what now?”, Åke thinks as Annas husband Toersten comes into the room and shouts, ”Hey you! Who are you?” Åke helps Anna into her wheelchair and Torsten asks: ”You are not a thief are you?” Åke thinks to himself: ”Oh, this is tough. I’m just doing my job.” As he walks out he says to himself, Fifteen minutes late and getting shouted at. This doesn’t feel good...” [Illustrator: Stefan Nygard] 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 13 PROBLEMATIC DAY SCENARIOS
    14. 14. Depicting fear and anxiety of local environments Generating considerations for technology interventions 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 14 INSECURITY IN THE LOCAL PARK
    15. 15.  Figure 3. Who gives care? Translation: Åke goes to work and places the mobile device in the ”who gives care” holder. He is careful with Anna’s injured arm, since the mobile device has informed him of a note from an earlier care giver: ”OBSERVE: - The arm is sprained. - The husband’s name is Torsten. Talk to him!” Meanwhile, Åke is introduced to Torsten, who thinks that he seems rather nice. The work is completed on time and Torsten says: ”See you!” Yeah, have a nice day!, Åke replays. [Illustrator: Stefan Nygard.] 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 15 TOWARDS WHAT SHOULD BE
    16. 16.  Desireable futures and wicked problem solving a common agenda  Positions are falseley dichotomized and misunderstood especially in terms of the economic discourse and Deweyan pragmatism inherent in Simons work  Operationalising principles into practice involves range of techniques and methods, including familiar design tools, , which also build on bounded rationality, scenarios …  Collaboration, visualization, dialogue already familiar characteristics to design and integrate the broader stakeholders (local society, health practitioners) in problems  Personas generated through a range of methods inform scenarios of current and future use 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 16 SUMMARY
    17. 17.  Ackoff, Russell, "Systems, Messes, and Interactive Planning" Portions of Chapters I and 2 of Redesigning the Future. New York/London: Wiley, 1974.  Camillus, J.C.; "Strategy as a Wicked Problem," Harvard Business Review, Vol. 86, 98-101 (2008). http://hbr.org/2008/05/strategy-as-a-wicked-problem/ar/1  Conklin, Jeffrey (2006). Dialogue mapping : building shared understanding of wicked problems. Chichester, England: Wiley. ISBN 0470017686.  Rittel, Horst W. J.; Melvin M. Webber (1973). "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning". Policy Sciences 4: 155–169  Levin, Kelly; Cashore, Benjamin; Bernstein, Steven; Auld, Graeme (23 May 2012). "Overcoming the tragedy of super wicked problems: constraining our future selves to ameliorate global climate change". Policy Sciences 45 (2): 123–152  "Tackling Wicked Problems: A Public Policy Perspective". Australian Public Service Commission. 25 October 2007. 03/07/2013 Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies, AUT 17 REFERENCES