Wicked Problems and Open Innovation


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A look at wicked problems, open government, and how we can change the lens of public sector innovation.

(Presented to the TOPS Symposium on May 27, 2014 — presentation prepared by Jerry Koh and delivered by Sameer Vasta.)

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Wicked Problems and Open Innovation

  1. 1. wicked-open-innovate TOPS Symposium 2014 Sameer Vasta MaRS Discovery District
  2. 2. wicked problems • clear problem definition • single organization • regular leadership: implement existing solution • clear and finite problem definition, but urgent need for solution • need for new solutions, more permission for action and innovation • directive leadership: demand for action and for someone taking control • unclear problem definition, not finite • requires innovation and learning, as well as multiple agencies • adaptive leadership: to create multi-stakeholders environments and experiment tame problem crisis problem wicked problem Grint, Keith. "Problems, problems, problems: The social construction of ‘leadership’." Human relations 58, no. 11 (2005): 1467-1494.
  3. 3. wicked problems wicked problem No agreement on the nature of the problem, and certainly no clear view on what interventions might work to resolve it. (Rittel & Webber, 1973; Grint, 2005) There is often a gap between the expressed values, beliefs and attitudes of a community (or organization) and their behaviours in practice. (Heifetz, 1995) There are multiple stakeholders involved, some of them are unknown or invisible There are complex interdependencies, which may reveal or create new problems when trying to solve aspects of the wicked problem Normal solutions do not longer seem to work You only understand the problem once you try solving it
  4. 4. social & economic challenges public systems complexity time
  5. 5. government society difficult to attract and retain people, potential shortages less public resources due to the financial crisis operating in vertical structures people better educated and informed, and many want to be engaged more private capital for social good available than ever before technology enables us to collaborate and perform complex tasks horizontally decrease of problem solving capacity problem solving capacity record high
  6. 6. meeting system challenges with society (not for society)
  7. 7. innovation the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations. Oslo Manual, OECD and Eurostat, 2007
  8. 8. open government innovation for wicked problems with stakeholders understand with innovators ideate with early adopters experiment with early majority implement
  9. 9. How many designers does it take to screw in a light bulb? with stakeholders understand
  10. 10. How many designers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Why does it have to be a light bulb? Seriously … why? with stakeholders understand
  11. 11. start with the citizen ask “stupid” questions (question assumptions) listen + observe map the relations look for uncertainties (opportunities for change) with stakeholders understand
  12. 12. How can we sell more cars? with innovators ideate
  13. 13. How can we sell more cars? Design the best cars possible. Manufacture the best quality cars possible. Offer the most generous loans possible. with innovators ideate
  14. 14. include users, experts & innovators wild cards, outsiders and unusual suspects think about scaling early leverage assets in the whole system with innovators ideate
  15. 15. Use cases, scenarios Continuous evaluation Prototypes (vs.) Pilots with early adopters experiment
  16. 16. meet wicked challenges with open government with society
  17. 17. So Solutions Po Policy CA Capacity H Hypothesis U Understand F Frame ST Stakeholder R Research Co Co-create V Vision I Innovator T Test PR Prototype Ev Evidence EA Early Adopter M Market SC Scale PC Policy Change EM Early Majority Periodic Table of Systems Change