Sunday, October 18, 2015

Wicked Problems and Wabi Sabi

It goes without saying that the changes occurring in our increasingly complex world are requiring more thoughtful and comprehensive responses.  In most cases we would assume that these changes are introduced for the sake of generating innovation or disruption to create advantages for an organization.

However, creative, comprehensive thinking is not only required when seeking opportunities to seek new opportunities but those approaches need to be integrated into the responses to wicked problems. Wicked problems require patience, openness and a tolerance for the ambiguities and contradictions that the problem poses.  By their nature, wicked problems cannot be addressed with a one size fits all, off the shelf approach.  Attempts to resolve wicked problems with authoritative approaches are at best band-aids and or more likely to exacerbate the situation.

Wicked problems, whether they are social problems, environmental challenges or similar issues, need to be addressed in manner that responds to the extent of the problem and the stakeholders who are impacted rather than the looking leverage the infrastructure available or conform to established protocols and procedures.  An orientation toward established resources and a narrower black and white view of the challenge without investing the time to get a deeper understanding of the issue and the repercussions of their response.

Integrating the approaches central to wabi-sabi aesthetics into the response to wicked problems. Such an approach would not assert that there is a person involved in the discussion that holds all the keys for addressing or resolving the problem.  Instead, there would be a more egalitarian and integrated approach to accumulating information about the situation and crafting a consensus on a response to the problem.

Given the challenges of wicked problems, wabi-sabi's adaptation to nature and desire to harmonize with it fosters a mindfulness that increases the consciousness of all of the aspects of a response to the problem.  There is also a willingness to be responsive to and interactive with all of the stakeholders that are impacted by a wicked problem and open to the feedback that they have to offer without at any point assuming that the solution has been found until it has been developed and crafted together in a manner that reflects the patience, openness and tolerance for change, flaws and natural cycles that are at the heart of the wabi-sabi aesthetic.

Wabi-sabi's emphasis on perception, whether it is by determining what can be seen or by accumulating data that would guide decision-making, rather than taking a reasoned and rational and ultimately more abstract, less grounded approach to a problem is one of the many ways that this aesthetic could be applied to decision-making rather than merely art.  Beyond that, this level of perception or consciousness will allow a group to develop an enhanced grasp and appreciation of the big picture that the wicked problem is a part of.  Further to that, the presence and attentiveness to the problem is aimed at unearthing and integrating trace elements of the process or problem that would not be acknowledged in a more rushed and mechanical approach to addressing a wicked problem.