#1 – Welcome to the Wicked Problems Podcast

“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives us is a lantern on the stern which shines only on the waves behind us.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772- 1834)


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Hello and welcome to the Wicked Problems podcast.

My name is Toby Corballis and I’m going to be your host on this journey through some fascinating problems being worked on and thought about by some extremely clever people.

But first, why the term wicked? Well, it’s not meant in the Ali-G sense, nor in the Wizard of Oz sense. Here, the term Wicked is referring to the elusiveness of solutions. This doesn’t mean that such problems cannot be solved, just that a solution is not that easy to find or, when solved, it wasn’t done by any immediately obvious rationale at the time, though sometimes the explanation can seem obvious in hindsight.

Throughout the series you’ll hear people like Martin Clements raise the issue of how businesses can stay safe in an ever-hostile on-line world if, indeed, business leaders are unable to identify, let alone understand, the threat landscape.

John Williams will discuss the problem of how, in an ever-crowded on-line world, people can effectively stand out and make their businesses successful.

Noll Fen talks about the problems of bias and how students – and other mortals like you and me – can defend against it, given it lives in all texts (a problem known in epistemological circles as pluralism).

What are Wicked Problems?

Wicked Problems are one of a class of three types of problem: Tame, Critical, and Wicked.

Tame problems are the ones we rub up against every day. They’re easy to spot and easy to solve. For instance, maybe you come out of your home to find that your car windscreen is iced up. It’s a problem, but you know how to solve it.

Critical problems are ones that need solving immediately. They’re critical because if you don’t solve them very soon, it will be too late. For instance, you’re crossing the road and suddenly realise a car is coming towards you that you hadn’t seen so you jump out of the way. If you hadn’t… well, who knows, but it wouldn’t have been a great outcome for you.

Wicked Problems, however, tend to be beyond experience. They may, in fact, be quite simple to define yet often the solution is fiendishly elusive, hence the term ‘wicked’. They may be in the moment, of a time, or perennial in nature, but there they are, as clear as a silted lake that’s host to an algae bloom.

Neither elegant or glib solutions can solve them – sometimes only the alchemy of experience can forge a solution.

I hope you enjoy this podcast and would love to hear any feedback in the comments below or via the contact page.

Toby Corballis

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

Steve Jobs (1955- 2011)

“Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”

Soren Kierkegaard (1813- 1855)

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