From Threat to Opportunity: Wicked Problems have Virtuous Solutions


One of the criticisms we see for this project is that we are accused of focusing on the negative – on wicked problems that can’t be solved.

John Hagel tells us that change movements will have much more impact if they shift from threat-based narratives to opportunity-based narratives.

Good point.

So here is how we see this: wicked problems have virtuous solutions.

What is a virtuous solution? It is the inverse of the wicked problem. In other words, here are the 10 properties of a virtuous solution:

  1. There is no definitive formulation of a virtuous solution.
  2. Virtuous solutions have no stopping rule. 
  3. Wirtuous solutions are not true or false, but good or bad.
  4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test to a virtuous solution.
  5. Every virtuous solution is a “one-shot” operation; because there is no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.
  6. Virtuous solutions do not have an exhaustively describable set of potential answers, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.
  7. Every virtuous solution is essentially unique.
  8. Every virtuous solution can be considered to be a effect of another virtuous solution
  9. The existence of a discrepancy representing a virtuous solution can be explained in numerous ways.
  10. The planner has no right to be wrong.

If all if this sound familiar, it is. All we are doing is using the definition of a wicked problem to define a virtuous solution.

So how does this work in practice? Our approach is straightforward. First we model the wicked problem. Then we explore/discover/discuss alternatives. Then we model the virtuous solution. We can expect variations at all levels – by country, by region, by nation, even by town or neighborhood. Still, mapping is a first step towards understanding.

We did this for COVID-19 using data and verified news stories. Stay tuned.