top of page

Taming Wicked Problems


Is your organization plagued with a recurring problem

that seems to defy definition and solution?


Are problems being solved in your organization? Or do their solutions seem to give rise to even more problems?


Is there agreement around what the problem actually is? Or are people in the organization constantly treating its symptoms – and never getting rid of the root cause?

Despite decades of implementing problem solving programs and providing people with problem solving skills, it seems that we have progressed little in the area of resolving complex problems. Issues around strategic clarity (doing the right things), process efficiency (doing things right) and employee engagement (getting people on the bus) continue to challenge many organizations.


If you had answered yes to any of the questions that we posed earlier, your organization may have a Wicked Problem. Most organizations do. A Wicked Problem (a termed coined by Horst Rittel and Melvin M. Webber) is one that is very challenging to resolve for reasons such as:

  • Insufficient information about the problem

  • Disagreement over what the actual problem is

  • Lack of resources to solve the problem

  • Shortage of ideas

  • People having different opinions 

  • Solutions that create unintended consequences


Tackling Wicked Problems requires a new way of thinking and a new type of problem solving. In this program, we will challenge the paradigms that participants hold about problem solving. We will also provide them with tools and techniques to tame Wicked Problems.


Program Agenda

Linear Problem Solving

Classic problem solving techniques such as Problem Identification, Root Cause Analysis, Decision Making and Failure Mode Analysis are fundamental to any problem solving process and will continue to have a role in addressing Wicked Problems. Via an interactive case study, we will discuss the thinking processes behind each of the four linear problem solving modes.


Systems Thinking

Organizations operate as a system, i.e. a collection of teams integrated to accomplish a common goal. Changes implemented on one part of the system can inadvertently impact another part of the system, sometimes adversely. We will introduce the concept of Systems Thinking via an interactive activity.  We will also discuss the concept of Systems Archetypes.  Participants will use this concept to take a big picture perspective in resolving their Wicked Problems.


The Sketch-a-Noodle Exercise

The key to tackling Wicked Problems is to harness the collective brainpower of people. The Sketch-a-Noodle Exercise provides a fun way to introduce the techniques to support effective group problem solving. Participants will work together to create a visual map of the problem and discuss ways to resolve it. By working together, there is greater likelihood that there will be commitment to the solution that is devised.

The Spaghetti Trials

Far too often, we design solutions to problems that sound good on paper but ultimately fail the implementation test. The Spaghetti Trials is yet another fun way to discuss how one should go about developing a workable solution. It also helps participants to challenge their own hidden assumptions about the problem and its solution.


Engaging People into the Wicked Problem Solving Process

People are the key to solving Wicked Problems. As such, constantly engaging them into the problem solving process is critical to success. Via an interactive activity, we will discuss some key principles in engaging people. We will also present a number of influence strategies that participants can use to win people over.

Learning Design

This is an interactive workshop. While there will be mini lectures, much of the learning will be done through interactive activities such as case studies, games and mini-simulations. We believe in incorporating fun into our programs so that participants remain engaged and learn the lessons that we want to impart. Application is also a key component of the program and participants will have ample opportunities during the program to apply what they learn to their actual workplace issues.

bottom of page