Tame Your Wicked Problem

The HSD Institute thrives because of our long-term relationships with clients.  Learners come back and continue to build knowledge and skills.  Long-time organizational partners invite us into new and ever more interesting projects because they see success in the past, and they expect overwhelming challenges in the future.  Consulting clients ask for help with their stickiest issues because they know they’ll discover surprising and powerful insights and options for action. 

Why do people feel such loyalty to a brand that is as revolutionary and “heady” as HSD?   Because it works.  It helps you see opportunity, even when frustrations are overwhelming. It helps you understand patterns, even when you can’t predict or don’t control them.  It helps you make decisions and take action, even when plans fall apart, and the path to success is clouded. 

FrustratedHow do we do that? HSD tames wicked problems. A wicked problem is one that has no solution.  You can define it in multiple ways, and each way suggests a different solution.  Many different stakeholders cause the problem, and many stakeholders (sometimes the same ones) are required to solve it.  What appears to be a solution may merely mask the problem for a while or generate even worse unintended consequences.  Wicked problems plague the global community today—climate change, violent conflict, hunger, corruption, to name a few. Our client’s issues may not be that far reaching, but they are equally wicked—employee engagement, quality, sustainability, agility, teamwork, innovation. What are the wicked problems that have you stuck?

How does HSD address intractable issues that persist in spite of massive efforts to solve them? Because HSD theory and practice draw on a revolutionary theory of change, drawn from sciences of chaos and complexity.  Our theory of change gives you interventions that are . . .            

. . .  Simple not complicated. We believe that the last thing you need when you face a complex problem is an even more complicated solution! Our models and methods are simple enough for children to use, and they are powerful enough to influence global solutions to wicked problems in policy and research. The HSD toolkit includes dozens of ideas to help you see simple opportunities in complex situations.  HSD will help you understand why more complicated tools succeed when they do, and why they so often fail.      

. . .  Essential not superficial. Anyone can describe the symptoms of a wicked problem.  Many models and methods offer metaphors that describe your favorite problems. They help you admire the overwhelming complexity, but they do not suggest effective action.  The real challenge today is not just to describe, but to understand wicked problems in ways that inform useful action. The HSD theory of change helps you see through surface complexity and explain the dynamics that drive the wickedness of your problem. 

. . .  Portable not repeatable. Complexity tells us that problems at one level influence problems at other levels.  You have seen how a disrupted family influences and is influenced by a disrupted community, polity, and environment.  HSD uses this insight to give you models and methods that work on wicked problems at all scales at the same time—from individual conflict to global markets.  At the same time, you do not trick yourself into believing that what worked in one place and time is sure to work in another. Every wicked problem is unique, so every HSD solution is custom designed to be fit for function.   

Too good to be true?  Ask our clients. Better than that, try it yourself.  Play with the Wicked Problem Tamer , attached here.  Download and try any of the articles on our website. Attend a free live virtual workshop. Practice what you learn from our books and articles. Join us for our first annual conference in October 2014. Become a certified Human Systems Dynamics professional. Even a small dose of HSD may help you tame your wicked problems, and a lifetime of practice will prepare you for whatever comes your way. 

Join a global network of learning about HSD!

As a member of the network, you will receive weekly notices of events, opportunities, and links to blogs and other learning opportunities. Additionally, you will have the option to unsubscribe at any point, should you decide to do so.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.