Wicked Problems” Paper


Assignment: “Wicked Problems” Paper



What is a “Wicked Problem” and how might we ‘tame” it using methods described by Kolko (Exposing the Magic of Design, Book) and others?



Key Points Answer Should Cover:


  • Horst Rittel was a mathematician/planner who identified wicked problems in the 1960s


  • West Churchman described Rittel’s notion of wicked problems in volume 14, number 4 of the journal Management Science published in December 1967 as “a class of social system problems which are ill-formulated, where the information is confusing, where there are many clients and decision makers with conflicting values, and where the ramifications in the whole system are thoroughly confusing.”


  • We might ‘tame’ wicked problems using what many variously define as design thinking and what Roger Martin relayed Charles Peirce had termed “abductive logic” in The Design of Business. Martin suggested that a wicked problem is one that demands attention be paid to understanding the nature of the problem itself. Traditional deductive or inductive logic and analytical thinking won’t do as WPs cannot be answered simply with a true or false, or an extrapolation of an answer from relating of facts (example: a=b, b=c; therefore a must = c)


  • Kolko suggests in Exposing the Magic of Design that its “design synthesis” and a “sensemaking” methodology that includes conducting research and analyzing data into key learnings and insights as a first step to ‘tame’ a wicked problem. Synthesis methods and techniques including framing, re-framing, model and pattern generation and visualization techniques such as diagramming and other graphic methods will enable abductive thinking on the designer’s part, and ultimately yield creation of effective design solutions to the problem.


  • In Exposing the Magic of Design Kolko references Buchanan and his description of “placements” and suggests that it is important to understand the experience of use via these “placements”: signs, things, actions, and thoughts. See pgs 103 – 105 of Exposing the Magic of Design, including fig. 7.1. A suggestion: substitute the word “are” for the graphic arrows in the graphic visualization.


  • Could also reference other design methods such as the “double diamond”, HCD, etc.





The paper required use of APA 6.0 for formatting, idea & source citations and references. See the class folder for some ‘cheat sheets’. Info sources you should / could reference include:

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th ed. Washington, DC:

American Psychological Association, 2010.


Hacker, D., & Sommers, N. (2013). A Pocket Style Manual – APA Version (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s. ISBN 978-0-312-56849-8






Key Points for this assignment:


  • Cover Page


Theoretically the document should have a cover page with the following information center justified: title of paper, your name, course/number, due date, & instructor name; I forgot to remove the ‘memo’ instructions from the original assignment sheet so papers without a proper cover were not penalized grade wise.


  • IP & In-Text Citations


Intellectual property and ideas must be credited to their owner / originator(s). Citations for sources are required within the paper’s text and need to be treated like so: (Author, year of publication)


  • In-Text Quotation Citations (less than 40 words in length with quotation marks)


Page numbers are added for direct quotes within the text after the quote like so: (p. 184)

  • In-Text Quotation Citations (more than 40 words in length)


A quotation from a source over 40 words in length is indented from the ‘normal’ body of text and no quotation marks are used. The page number where the text is found is treated as above.

  • References cited in the paper are to be listed once on a separate sheet included after the body of the paper – per the proper APA multiple possible treatments.p(5)

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