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Modelling Social Messes with Morphological Analysis Tom Ritchey Download article in PDF format If you work in an organisation that deals with social, commercial or financial planning - or any type of public policy planning - then you've got wicked problems.
You may not Product market analysis essay them by this name, but you know what they are.
They are those complex, ever changing societal and organisational planning problems that you haven't been able to treat with much success, because they won't keep still. They're messy, devious, and they fight back when you try to deal with them.
It presents the ten criteria they use to characterise WPs, and describes how General Morphological Analysis GMA can be used to model and analyse such problem complexes.
Wicked problems, general morphological analysis, policy analysis, Horst Rittel Introduction InHorst Rittel and Melvin Webber, both urban planners at the University of Berkley in California, wrote an article for Policy Sciences with the astounding title "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning".
In this landmark article, the authors observed that there is a whole realm of social planning problems that cannot be successfully treated with traditional linear, analytical systems-engineering-like approaches.
They called these wicked problems, in contrast to tame problems. At first glance, it is not self-evident what is actually meant by this term. Both the words "wicked" and "problem" need to be qualified: Problems are "wicked" not in the sense of being "evil", but in that they are seriously devious and can have nasty unintended consequences for the planners who try to do something about them.
Furthermore, as a decision maker, whatever decision you make, a good portion of the stakeholders involved often a majority of them! Also, wicked problems are not actually "problems" in the sense of having well defined and stable problem statements.
They are too messy for this, which is why they have also been called social messes and unstructured reality Ackoff, ; Horn, They are "wicked" problems, whereas science has de-veloped to deal with "tame" problems. Policy problems cannot be definitively described. Moreover, in a pluralistic society there is nothing like the undisputable public good; there is no objective definition of equity; policies that respond to social problems cannot be meaningfully correct or false; and it makes no sense to talk about "optimal" solutions to social problems unless severe qualifications are imposed first.
Even worse, there are no "solutions" in the sense of definitive and objective answers. Some say that we are wiser today, and less susceptible to the belief that complex social planning problems can be "solved" by linear methods akin to engineering solutions.
I am not so sure about this. In any event, it is instructive to look at the original formulation of the distinction between "wicked" and "tame" problems. First, let us look at what characterises a tame problem. A tame problem has a relatively well-defined and stable problem statement. Wicked problems are completely different.
Wicked problems are ill-defined, ambiguous and associated with strong moral, political and professional issues. Since they are strongly stakeholder dependent, there is often little consensus about what the problem is, let alone how to resolve it.
Furthermore, wicked problems won't keep still: Often, new forms of wicked problems emerge as a result of trying to understand and solve one of them. For wicked problems, however, this type of scheme does not work.
One cannot understand the problem without knowing about its context; one cannot meaningfully search for information without the orientation of a solution concept; one cannot first understand, then solve. How should we fight the "War on Terrorism?
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by Milton Friedman Introduction, Leonard Read’s delightful story, “I, Pencil,” has become a classic, and deservedly so. I know of no other piece of literature that so succinctly, persuasively, and effectively illustrates the meaning of both Adam Smith’s invisible hand—the possibility of cooperation without coercion—and Friedrich Hayek’s emphasis on the importance of dispersed.
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