“If you work in an organisation that deals with long-term social, commercial or organisational policy planning, then you’ve got wicked problems. You may not call them by this name, but you know what they are. They are those complex, ever changing societal and organisational planning problems that you haven’t been able to treat with much success, because they won’t keep still. They’re messy, devious, and reactive, i.e. they fight back when you try to deal them.”
IntroductionIn 1973, Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, both urban planners at the University of Berkley in California, wrote an article forPolicy Sciences with the astounding title “Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning”. In this landmark article, the authors observed that there is a whole realm of social planning problems that cannot be successfully treated with traditional linear, analytical (systems-engineering-like) approaches. They called these wicked problems, in contrast to tame problems.
(A year later, in his book “Redesigning the Future”, Russell Ackoff (1974) essentially put forward the same concept — although in less detail — which he called a “social mess” or “unstructured reality”.)