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Wicked problems

Yala is the Guna word for homeland, sanctuary, safe place to talk. This is a site about using the Internet to make it safer to talk. In other words, the Yala is a web-based platform for collaboration designed to aid the emergence of collective intelligence.

We need to collaborate whenever we are faced with "wicked problems". Wicked problems are not understood until after the formulation of a solution; they have have no stopping rule. Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong. Every wicked problem is essentially novel and unique. Every solution to a wicked problem is a "one shot operation". And wicked problems have no given alternative solutions.

Economic, environmental, and political issues are classic examples of wicked problems. A problem whose solution requires a great number of people to change their mindsets and behavior is likely to be a wicked problem. Therefore, many standard examples of wicked problems come from the areas of public planning and policy. These include global climate change, natural hazards, healthcare, the AIDS epidemic, pandemic influenza, international drug trafficking, homeland security, nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, waste and social injustice.

Collaborative strategies aim to engage many stakeholders in order to find the best possible solution for all. Typically these approaches involve meetings in which aims, issues and alternate views are discussed.

The Yala is one such collaborative approach, which engages those people who are affected in the planning process. They are not merely asked but actively involved. A disadvantage of such approaches has been that achieving a shared understanding and commitment to solving a wicked problem is time-consuming. However, experience over the last two decades has shown the value of computer-assisted dialogue-management in improving the effectiveness of cross-stakeholder communication.

How to create a Yala:
Imagine things that never were, and ask "Why not?" Dream the wildest possible dreams, and then pursue them. Because the best way to predict the future is to create it yourself.
Engage with people in neighboring groups and organizations. Because it makes sense to encourage people to think about what they are doing and to pay attention to what those about them are doing.
Listen to feedback and assist pattern recognition. Because failure is disastrous when we don't pay attention to what people say (think oil spill, bank bailout, nuclear meltdown, aircraft accident).
Cultivate insight by encouraging people to develop their own invented-and-done-here solutions. Because helping others to succeed sets the stage for the emergence of collective intelligence.
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Geoffrey Morton-Haworth
geoffreymh@gmail.com

  

 

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