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For the love of Wicked Problems - NUX5

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Wikipedia says a wicked problem is a problem that is “difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognise”. The use of term “wicked” here has come to denote resistance to resolution, rather than evil.

"You can’t know what you don’t know about what you need to know. So it’s still your fault." – Modern UX Designer’s conundrum

As the Lean movement treads its certain path through the digital world, killing two-dimensional artefacts, trouncing on requirements specifications and making us all empowered and Agile, we might be sleepwalking into a bunch of very wicked problems.

You may not recognise wicked problems when they come up, but like a bad smell, they haunt you for a long time. Within the trifecta of money, time and capability, live any number of decisions needed to conceptualise, design and build large scale digital products and services. The need to balance these with getting something ‘shipped’ means we inherently make choices that have a significant impact on the challenges we face later down the line. Whether start-up or established business, you’re not protected from wicked problems.

In my talk, I want to explore:

- What makes a problem wicked
- The kinds of wicked problems we’re creating
- The future problems we will need to address
- Tips for tackling wicked problems

Published in: Technology

For the love of Wicked Problems - NUX5

  1. 1. #NUX5 @LolaOye Short descriptive heading 1 For the love of wicked problems #NUX5 @LolaOye
  2. 2. #NUX5 @LolaOye Today, I’ll be talking about… 2 What makes a problem wicked The kinds of wicked problems we’re responsible for The future problems we will need to address Tips for tackling wicked problems
  3. 3. #NUX5 @LolaOye 3 POVERTY UNEMPLOYMENT EDUCATION CRIME HOUSING
  4. 4. #NUX5 @LolaOye 4 TAKE A PIC! Jon Kolko tackles: • Problems that need designers • Applying our tools to social problems • Social entrepreneurship https://www.wickedproblems.com/
  5. 5. #NUX5 @LolaOye 10 Characteristics of complex social issues 5 1. Wicked problems have no definitive formulation. E.g. Poverty in one place won’t have the same challenges as poverty in another 2. It's hard, maybe impossible, to measure or claim success with wicked problems because they bleed into one another. 3. Solutions to wicked problems can be only good or bad, not true or false. 4. There is no template to follow when tackling a wicked problem, although history may provide a guide. 5. There is always more than one explanation for a wicked problem, with the appropriateness of the explanation depending greatly on the individual perspective of the designer. 6. Every wicked problem is a symptom of another problem. 7. No mitigation strategy for a wicked problem has a definitive scientific test because humans invented wicked problems and science exists to understand natural phenomena. 8. Offering a "solution" to a wicked problem frequently is a "one shot" design effort because a significant intervention changes the design space enough to minimise the ability for trial and error. 9. Every wicked problem is unique. 10. Designers attempting to address a wicked problem must be fully responsible for their actions. Source: Rittel, Horst. "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning." Policy Sciences, 1973: 155-169.
  6. 6. #NUX5 @LolaOye 10 Characteristics of complex social issues 6 1. Wicked problems have no definitive formulation. E.g. Poverty in one place won’t have the same challenges as poverty in another 2. It's hard, maybe impossible, to measure or claim success with wicked problems because they bleed into one another. 3. Solutions to wicked problems can be only good or bad, not true or false. 4. There is no template to follow when tackling a wicked problem, although history may provide a guide. 5. There is always more than one explanation for a wicked problem, with the appropriateness of the explanation depending greatly on the individual perspective of the designer. 6. Every wicked problem is a symptom of another problem. 7. No mitigation strategy for a wicked problem has a definitive scientific test because humans invented wicked problems and science exists to understand natural phenomena. 8. Offering a "solution" to a wicked problem frequently is a "one shot" design effort because a significant intervention changes the design space enough to minimise the ability for trial and error. 9. Every wicked problem is unique. 10. Designers attempting to address a wicked problem must be fully responsible for their actions. Source: Rittel, Horst. "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning." Policy Sciences, 1973: 155-169.
  7. 7. #NUX5 @LolaOye Today, I’ll be talking about… 7 What makes a problem wicked…in our modern digital context? The kinds of wicked problems we’re responsible for The future problems we will need to address Tips for tackling wicked problems
  8. 8. #NUX5 @LolaOye 8 Legacy technology • Fixing one issue creates another • Lack of retained knowledge • ‘Black-box’ software • Poor maintenance practice The Wicked Digital Quartet Digital/ Technical literacy • Decisions made by the least knowledgeable forums • Inappropriate use of rhetoric e.g. transformation, lean, disruption • Middle-management resistance + Finance • Zero-budgetting practices • Incumbent vs venture capitalists • Misunderstanding full cost of ownership • Outdated IT Procurement practice + Agile/ Lean methodology • Moving faster than ever • Start now, fix later • Empowerment of Product Owners • Lack of empathy within and between teams • Rushing towards new & next + TAKE A PIC!
  9. 9. 9 A 100-year old public institution embarks on a digital transformation programme. They set an aggressive agenda to overhaul end-of-life technology and create new web services. They hire a strategic team, a systems integrator, select a CMS and want everything to go in the cloud. Day 1, the digital transformation team consists of 60 people, a mix of internal and external resources. Many of the internal resources have attended internal talks on Agile. The first product MVP is expected to demo to the board in 6-weeks. #NUX5 @LolaOye REAL WORLD SCENARIO
  10. 10. #NUX5 @LolaOye 10 Agile/ Lean methodology • Moving faster than ever • Start now, fix later • Empowerment of Product Owners • Lack of empathy within and between teams • Rushing towards new & next Legacy technology • Fixing one issue creates another • Lack of retained knowledge • ‘Black-box’ software • Poor maintenance practice Digital/ Technical literacy • Decisions made by the least knowledgeable forums • Inappropriate use of rhetoric e.g. transformation, lean, disruption • Middle-management resistance Finance • Zero-budgetting practices • Incumbent vs venture capitalists • Misunderstanding full cost of ownership • Outdated IT Procurement practice The Wicked Digital Quartet + + +
  11. 11. #NUX5 @LolaOye Today, I’ll be talking about… 11 What makes a problem wicked…in our modern digital context? The kinds of wicked problems we’re responsible for The future problems we will need to address Tips for tackling wicked problems
  12. 12. #NUX5 @LolaOye What the user experiences… 12 • Slow look-ups & searches - we often consider these ‘performance’ issues • Badly loading pages - on slow connections, we blame it on ‘the network’ • Page disharmony & flat interactions - because the dev had to do the last bit of design • Dead-end journeys - because content isn’t where it is supposed to be
  13. 13. #NUX5 @LolaOye …is down to our failure points 13 • Slow look-ups & searches - we often consider these ‘performance’ issues • Badly loading pages - on slow connections, we blame it on ‘the network’ • Page disharmony & flat interactions - because the dev had to do the last bit of design • Dead-end journeys - because content isn’t where it is supposed to be Systemic failures • Discovery places too much focus on end-user pain points and an idealised future state • Sprint 0 focuses on getting development going • Where do we uncover the current systemic characteristics? Individual failures • If I design it, they have to build it - but can they build it? • If they don’t build it they messed up, not me • Could ‘they’ be a part of my design process?
  14. 14. #NUX5 @LolaOye Today, I’ll be talking about… 14 What makes a problem wicked…in our modern digital context? The kinds of wicked problems we’re responsible for The future problems we will need to address Tips for tackling wicked problems
  15. 15. Desktop, mobile and web don’t mean much Smart TV Wearables Tablets Apps
  16. 16. Quant now equals Qual Big Data Smart TV Wearables Analytics Tablets Apps
  17. 17. Digital inequality is on the rise ! Legacy Technology Big Data Smart TV Wearables Analytics Tablets Apps Real-time web technology
  18. 18. #NUX5 @LolaOye Today, I’ll be talking about… 18 What makes a problem wicked…in our modern digital context? The kinds of wicked problems we’re responsible for The future problems we will need to address Tips for tackling wicked problems
  19. 19. #NUX5 @LolaOye “ 19 In human affairs, continuous learning is essential and [soft systems methodology] is a way of doing that continuous learning. Prof. Peter Checkland, Lancaster University
  20. 20. #NUX5 @LolaOye Idealising for the end user isn’t valuable if you don’t take as much care to understand the contextual constraints you have to design within - even if those issues are not immediately apparent to the end user. 20 TAKE A PIC! Wicked Tip #1 How it works? Use a prototype (e.g. sketches or interactive) to run workshops with as many internal stakeholders as possible. Build your backlog based on blending user needs with the constraints and opportunities uncovered during these workshops. Eradicate as many “spikes” as possible! Product Runway How it works? Just as you would model a user’s journey, model the system. Map out the needs one store/component has of another, where things are stored and identity tactical pain points e.g. old software, compliance. This should be ‘human’ readable, it is not a data flow diagram or a technical diagram. Make it big, use a wall and add to it over time. System Journey Maps
  21. 21. #NUX5 @LolaOye As a UX professional, it is no longer an option to have low technical literacy - start speaking dev, take time to learn about the big legacy challenges most organisations face and be pragmatic. 21 TAKE A PIC! Wicked Tip #2 How it works? Spend the early part of any project sitting with, talking to and learning from the development/IT teams. This is not just about uncovering requirements, but also about building empathy and mutual respect to tackle future problems together! Co-Location How it works? Take a user story, and run your first idea session as a joint sketch session with development. Make these short 30-45mins and punchy. Create a template so you get notes with each sketch, this is usually the most informative bit, why did they see the solution this way? This also builds a sense of shared ownership. Developer + Design Workshops
  22. 22. #NUX5 @LolaOye There is no blame game available to you. “They” is replaced by “We”. There is no right or wrong only good or bad, based on the best understanding WE can achieve. 22 TAKE A PIC! Wicked Tip #3 How it works? Track the failure points and compromises that are likely to have the biggest impact. Monitor these through usability testing, the analytics and user feedback. For each failure point score: 1 - Low impact on customer 2 - Moderate impact on customer 3 - High impact on customer Keep track of your debt scores and use it to prioritise! Customer Experience Debt
  23. 23. #NUX5 @LolaOye Short descriptive heading 23 “We cannot solve the problems we have created with the same thinking we used in creating them. Albert Einstein
  24. 24. Thank you, keep in touch lola.oyelayo@headlondon.com headlondon.com @LolaOye www.ownyourexperience.com

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