DA4302 Coping with Wicked Problems

This interdisciplinary seminar focuses on a new class of problems-"wicked problems" or "messes." Evidence of wicked problems comes from experts in many quarters-product designers, software engineers, planners, program managers and policy makers. All warn that traditional methods of problem solving are not working and no apparent alternatives are in sight. Wicked problems have the following characteristics: 1) there is no agreement about "the problem." In fact, the formulation of the problem IS the problem. 2) There is no agreement on a solution. In actuality, stakeholders put forward many competing "solutions" none of which have stopping rules to determine when the problem is solved. 3) The problem solving process is complex because constraints, such as resources and political ramifications, are constantly changing. 4) Constraints also change because they are generated by numerous interested parties who come and go, change their minds, fail to communicate, or otherwise change the rules by which the problem must be solved. Using case studies, readings and actual dilemmas confronting military officers and government officials, students learn to recognize when they are in wicked problem territory and what coping strategies and tactics might be useful in this problem-solving context. Prerequisites: None.

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Quarter Offered

  • As Required