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Open Access
Book part
Publication date: 29 March 2022

Camilo Arciniegas Pradilla, Jose Bento da Silva and Juliane Reinecke

Wicked problems are causally complex, lack definite solutions, and re-emerge in different guises. This paper discusses how new ways of organizing emerge to tackle changing

Abstract

Wicked problems are causally complex, lack definite solutions, and re-emerge in different guises. This paper discusses how new ways of organizing emerge to tackle changing manifestations of wicked problems. Focusing on the wicked problem of poverty, we conducted a longitudinal study of Fe y Alegria (FyA), one of the world’s largest non-governmental organization, which provides education for the poor across 21 countries in Latin America and Africa. Drawing on archival and ethnographic data, we trace the historical narratives of how FyA defined poverty as a problem and developed new ways of organizing, from its foundation by a Jesuit priest in 1955 to its current networked structure. Our findings reveal the ongoing cycle of interpretive problem definition and organizing solutions for wicked problems. First, since there is no “true” formulation of a wicked problem, actors construct narrative explanations based on their understanding of the problem. Second, organizational solutions to a wicked problem are thus reflections of these narrative constructions. Third, emerging and changing narratives about what the problem is inspire new organizational responses. Our findings provide insights into the dynamic relationship between organizing for wicked problems, narratives, and the changing manifestations of wicked problems and grand challenges more broadly.

Details

Organizing for Societal Grand Challenges
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-83909-829-1

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 19 September 2016

Liam Fahey

In this interview John C Camillus, author of Wicked Strategies: How Companies Conquer Complexity and Confound Competitors shares his approach to identifying “wicked

Abstract

Purpose

In this interview John C Camillus, author of Wicked Strategies: How Companies Conquer Complexity and Confound Competitors shares his approach to identifying “wicked problems” that firms can then explore to find growth opportunities.

Design/methodology/approach

The “wicked strategies” approach that Camillus proposes is designed to convert disruptive technologies into innovative business models, reconcile conflicted stakeholders by engaging them in co-creation of value and transform an unknowable future into a desired one through the alchemy of a Feed-Forward Framework.

Findings

Camillus’ proposed Feed-Forward Framework enables and employs the process of experimentation.

Practical implications

Camillus’ multi-level approach starts by discerning unique “wicked problems,” then applies a “Feed-Forward Framework” that analyzes multiple stakeholder interests and develops scenarios to discover and test possible opportunities and robust strategies.

Originality/value

The role of the corporate headquarters that Camillus proposes differs from the approach that is conventionally employed – it focuses intensely on human resources and competency development.

Details

Strategy & Leadership, vol. 44 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1087-8572

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Article
Publication date: 18 January 2016

Charles McMillan and Jeffrey Overall

The purpose of this paper is to critique the existing decision-making models of organizational theory and the ability of strategic managers to address unconventional…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to critique the existing decision-making models of organizational theory and the ability of strategic managers to address unconventional problems using these models. Strategic management models presume reasonable stability in the task environment and the organizational design features. However, complex problems, or wicked problems, are prolific in a global world. They change profoundly the nature of strategic management, where management faces a deep paradox – an environment of unprecedented interdependence, yet unpredictable forces of chaos and volatility, a landscape of wicked problems. In this paper, the authors address wicked problems within the context of strategic management.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors review and critique the organizational theory literature, namely, microeconomics, bounded rationality, organizational failure and the theory of creative destruction within the context of wicked problems.

Findings

The authors find that the contemporary models of strategic management are incapable of assisting managers in addressing the reality of wicked problems. They argue that organizational pathologies rest in executive action: pursuit of goals and objectives with a false sense of causation, feedback filters that exaggerate good news and restrict bad news and actions that give only token measures to correct faulty design decisions and faulty decision processes, including more emphasis on vertical channels than horizontal task interdependencies.

Originality/value

The authors conclude that wicked problem-solving is by temperament and time horizon, a multilayered, multitasked, organizational challenge, and requires fundamentally different mindsets for design and performance systems for senior executives. The study of wicked problems requires a new corporate mindset, new collaborative models to address them and new corporate processes and executive training tools who increasingly have to address them. This research is a first step toward extending our understanding of how to address the world of wicked problems.

Details

Journal of Business Strategy, vol. 37 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0275-6668

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Article
Publication date: 4 September 2020

Mark N. Wexler and Judy Oberlander

This paper examines the relevance of the wicked problem continuum, particularly the emergence of super wicked challenges for public leadership researchers. Contemporary…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper examines the relevance of the wicked problem continuum, particularly the emergence of super wicked challenges for public leadership researchers. Contemporary theorizing on public leadership adequately deals with tame challenges, struggles with wicked problems and remains in the dark with regards to the implications of super wicked problems

Design/methodology/approach

The wicked problem continuum provides a typology or set of dilemmas running from tame to wicked through to super wicked problems. These different problem types are treated as if they were on a three-zone continuum in which the difficulty of solving or substantially reducing the problem varies from relatively low to very high.

Findings

We delineate the three-problem contexts in the wicked problem continuum and discuss the ideal type of organization thriving in each zone. We then posit two opposing wicked problem interpretations-taming and wilding- for those interested in public leadership. Taming calls for prudent, results-oriented leaders employing tried and tested practices. Wilding demands leaders who test the status quo by seeking alternatives.

Social implications

On the global leadership agenda, wilding problems—those calling attention to the super wicked zone—are escalating. Despite this, public leaders' training lacks a framework for making sense of these urgent and publicly contentious super wicked problems.

Originality/value

Public policy researchers are beginning to direct attention to super wicked problems such as climate change, and pandemics. This work introduces the wicked problem continuum and demonstrates its pertinence for researchers of public leadership.

Details

International Journal of Public Leadership, vol. 16 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2056-4929

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Article
Publication date: 4 September 2009

Mark N. Wexler

The purpose of this paper is to explore the relevance for sociologically minded planners and policy analysts of the neglected moral dimension of wicked problems.

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the relevance for sociologically minded planners and policy analysts of the neglected moral dimension of wicked problems.

Design/methodology/approach

A review of the literature on the wicked‐tame problem distinction reveals three critical deficiencies: a fixed focus on dynamic complexity; a neglect of the applied knowledge market and the assumption that wicked problems, in time, are tamable. These deficiencies, in light of the call to dialogue and participation in working through wicked problems, result in four interrelated normative problems.

Findings

These normative problems are the: responsibility nexus; risk of false assurance; politics of urgency; and claim to be on the knowledge frontier.

Practical implications

Addressing these normative problems in working with wicked problems requires less marketing of the silver bullet elements of the solution and more attention to that portion of the wicked problem which still requires attention.

Originality/value

This is the first work to return to Churchman's call to policy analysts, planners and designers to take the moral dimensions of wicked problems in hand when working with intractable network‐based problems requiring ongoing client/user participation.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 29 no. 9/10
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 3 January 2017

Ann-Marie Kennedy, Sommer Kapitan, Neha Bajaj, Angelina Bakonyi and Sean Sands

This paper aims to use systems thinking, systems theory and Camillus’ framework for responding to wicked problems to provide social marketers with a theoretically based…

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to use systems thinking, systems theory and Camillus’ framework for responding to wicked problems to provide social marketers with a theoretically based framework for approaching strategy formation for wicked problems. The paper treats fast fashion as an illustrative case and takes a step back from implementation to provide a framework for analysing and gaining understanding of wicked problem system structure for social marketers to then plan more effective interventions. The proposed approach is intended as a theory-based tool for social marketing practitioners to uncover system structure and analyse the wicked problems they face.

Design/methodology/approach

Following Layton, this work provides theoretically based guidelines for analysing the black box of how to develop and refine strategy as first proposed in Camillus’ (2008) framework for responding to wicked issues.

Findings

The prescription thus developed for approaching wicked problems’ system structure revolves around identifying the individuals, groups or entities that make up the system involved in the wicked problem, and then determining which social mechanisms most clearly drive each entity and which outcomes motivate these social mechanisms, before determining which role the entities play as either incumbent, challenger or governance and which social narratives drive each role’s participation in the wicked problem.

Originality/value

This paper shows that using systems thinking can help social marketers to gain big picture thinking and develop strategy for responding to complex issues, while considering the consequences of interventions.

Details

Journal of Social Marketing, vol. 7 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-6763

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 12 October 2015

Sandra Waddock, Greta M. Meszoely, Steve Waddell and Domenico Dentoni

The purpose of this paper is to extend and elaborate the notion of successful organizational change to incorporate the concept of large system change (LSC), by developing…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to extend and elaborate the notion of successful organizational change to incorporate the concept of large system change (LSC), by developing a framework that brings together complexity and wicked problems theories to understand how individual organizations and change agents can better influence LSC.

Design/methodology/approach

This conceptual paper integrates wicked problems and complexity theories to understand and cope with large system initiatives from the perspective of change agents in organizations, and uses the case of the electricity system as an illustrative example for these concepts.

Findings

The paper provides implications for LSC and action steps for change agents in organizations, arguing that by understanding change initiatives through the lenses of complexity and wicked problems, change agents are likely to be more effective.

Research limitations/implications

The integration of complexity science and wicked problems underpins the development of a comprehensive framework for creating effective LSC solutions, however, these ideas still need to be grounded in practice and empirical research.

Practical implications

Using these ideas, change agents in organizations can enhance their influence and use the power of system dynamics to support positive action for sustainable change. This paper provides a foundation to help think through the cross-sectoral, inter-organizational, and change dynamics involved in LSC efforts needed to bring about a more sustainable, secure, and equitable world for all.

Social implications

The world greatly needs system change; however, there is limited theory on effective LSC. This paper hopes to contribute to understanding the ways in which the difficulties of such change can be harnessed to move in positive directions with minimal disruption and greatest effectiveness.

Originality/value

Theories of change management that position the organization in the context of a broader system and define its role in creating change do not yet articulate the nature of the problems at hand in relation to the large systems where they are embedded. This paper builds upon wicked problems and complexity theories to shed light on the role of change agents and organizations in effective transformational change.

Details

Journal of Organizational Change Management, vol. 28 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0953-4814

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 15 August 2018

Sharon Zivkovic

The purpose of this paper is to question the appropriateness of current lab types for addressing wicked problems. A new lab type, a Systemic Innovation Lab, is proposed…

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to question the appropriateness of current lab types for addressing wicked problems. A new lab type, a Systemic Innovation Lab, is proposed which combines the features of existing labs that are suited to addressing wicked problems.

Design/methodology/approach

Characteristics of initiatives that are considered appropriate for addressing wicked problems and existing lab types that contain any of these characteristics are identified. These lab types are Social Innovation Labs, Living Labs, Urban Living Labs, Urban Transition Labs and Public Sector Innovation Labs. The proposed new lab type is reasoned by combining the features of existing labs that are suited to addressing wicked problems. How the new lab would work in practice is illustrated with a case study.

Findings

When addressing wicked problems, labs need to take a systemic design and not a service design approach. They also need to focus on addressing complex problems, take a place-based and transition approach, enable coherent action by diverse actors, involve users as co-creators, support a networked governance approach and recognize government as an enabler of change.

Practical implications

This paper provides a new lab type designed specifically for addressing wicked problems. This new lab supports practitioners that take a systemic design, solution ecosystem and systemic innovation approach. Systemic design is based on a core set of principles that are a crossover between design and complexity theory.

Originality/value

For the first time, this paper analyzes different lab types to determine their appropriateness for addressing wicked problems. It also proposes a new lab type whose sole purpose is addressing wicked problems.

Details

Social Enterprise Journal, vol. 14 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1750-8614

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 15 April 2022

Mairi N. McKinnon and Brad S. Long

The motivation for this paper comes from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation’s (TRC) Calls to Action, and in particular, the call for more meaningful consultation and…

Abstract

Purpose

The motivation for this paper comes from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation’s (TRC) Calls to Action, and in particular, the call for more meaningful consultation and respectful, consent-based relationships between businesses and Indigenous communities in Canada. To this end, this study empirically examines leadership in the context of a wicked problem faced by a pulp and paper mill and suggest an Indigenous epistemology as helpful to inform the leadership behaviours employed in this company.

Design/methodology/approach

Firstly, this study established that the problem faced by the company aligns with the characteristics of wicked problems, hence necessitating a collective leadership approach. This study then compiled a database from publicly available documents and inductively coded this data to identify themes that told us something about the leadership behaviours employed by the company as it attempted to resolve the problem at hand.

Findings

This study provides evidence that the company did not employ collective leadership when attempting to tame its wicked problem. It then shows that the context in which the firm operates lends itself well to the Mi’kmaw concept of Two-Eyed Seeing as a guiding principle that could have informed the company’s leadership and contributed to a long-overdue process of reconciliation. This study proposes several specific actions that plausibly could have helped produce such an outcome.

Originality/value

This paper helps fill a void in applications of the wicked problem construct to businesses. Further, this study suggests that the problem faced by this firm remained difficult to tame precisely because it failed to employ a collective leadership approach. The contribution to the leadership literature comes from introducing Two-Eyed Seeing and showing how it may help produce leadership that is inherently more collective in nature. Beyond its instrumental value, this approach may nurture more consent-based relationships between businesses and Indigenous communities in Canada, as called for by the TRC, hence contributing to reconciliation with a long-suffering neighbouring Indigenous community.

Details

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, vol. 17 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-5648

Keywords

Article
Publication date: 20 March 2017

Mortaza S. Bargh, Sunil Choenni and Ronald Meijer

Information dissemination has become a means of transparency for governments to enable the visions of e-government and smart government, and eventually gain, among others…

Abstract

Purpose

Information dissemination has become a means of transparency for governments to enable the visions of e-government and smart government, and eventually gain, among others, the trust of various stakeholders such as citizens and enterprises. Information dissemination, on the other hand, may increase the chance of privacy breaches, which can undermine those stakeholders’ trust and thus the objectives of transparency. Moreover, fear of potential privacy breaches compels information disseminators to share minimum or no information. The purpose of this study is to address these contending issues of information disseminations, i.e. privacy versus transparency, when disseminating judicial information to gain (public) trust. Specifically, the main research questions are: What is the nature of the aforementioned “privacy–transparency” problem and how can we approach and address this class of problems?

Design/methodology/approach

To address these questions, the authors have carried out an explorative case study by reconsidering and analyzing a number of information dissemination cases within their research center for the past 10 years, reflecting upon the whole design research process, consulting peers through publishing a preliminary version of this contribution and embedding the work in an in-depth literature study on research methodologies, wicked problems and e-government topics.

Findings

The authors show that preserving privacy while disseminating information for transparency purposes is a typical wicked problem, propose an innovative designerly model called transitional action design research (TADR) to address the class of such wicked problems and describe three artifacts which are designed, intervened and evaluated according to the TADR model in a judicial research organization.

Originality/value

Classifying the privacy transparency problem in the judicial settings as wicked is new, the proposed designerly model is innovative and the realized artifacts are deployed and still operational in a real setting.

Details

Transforming Government: People, Process and Policy, vol. 11 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1750-6166

Keywords

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