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⚓
HERTJE BRODERSEN ∙ @HYPERCATALECTA
EUROIA 2019・RIGA・26. SEPTEMBER 2019
Dealing with Complex Systems and Wicked Problems
...
DEALING WITH COMPLEX PROBLEMS
CONTEXT
RECOGNISING COMPLEXITY
PLANNING
MANAGING FOR COMPLEXITY
MINDSET
DESIGNING FOR COMPLE...
CONTEXT
RECOGNIZING COMPLEXITY
GLENN CORBETT, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF FIRE SCIENCE AT JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE
“ALL THE SENSITIVE TECHNOLOGY 
...
MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM
DIFFICULT TO ANALYZE,
UNDERSTAND, 

OR EXPLAIN
A WHOLE MADE UP
OF COMPLICATED OR
INTERRELATED PARTS
DE...
BASED ON FRANCES WESTLEY, BRENDA ZIMMERMAN, AND MICHAEL QUINN PATTON, 

“GETTING TO MAYBE: HOW THE WORLD IS CHANGED” (2007...
“DISASTERS CAN OCCUR WHEN
COMPLEX ISSUES ARE MANAGED OR
MEASURED AS IF THEY ARE MERELY
COMPLICATED OR EVEN SIMPLE.”
FRANCE...
BASED ON: “CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK” BY DAVE SNOWDEN, “STACEY MATRIX” BY RALPH D. STACEY
CYNEFIN FRAMEWORKSTACEY MATRIX
BASED ON: “CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK” BY DAVE SNOWDEN, “STACEY MATRIX” BY RALPH D. STACEY, “TYPES OF PROBLEMS” BY FRANCES WESTLEY ...
HORST W. J. RITTEL AND MELVIN M. WEBBER, "DILEMMAS IN A GENERAL THEORY OF PLANNING” (1972)
THERE IS NO DEFINITE FORMULATIO...
“WE ARE CAPABLE OF SHIFTING A
SYSTEM FROM COMPLEXITY TO ORDER
AND MAINTAINING IT THERE IN SUCH A
WAY THAT IT BECOMES PREDI...
DETERMINE THE TYPE OF PROBLEM
DEALING WITH COMPLEXITY − TAKEAWAYS
DON’T USE FORMULAIC SOLUTIONS
ACT, AND TAKE RESPONSIBILI...
PLANNING
MANAGING FOR COMPLEXITY
“THE ACCUMULATION OF WRONG
DECISIONS AND INCORRECT
INFORMATION CAN ONLY BE
EXPLAINED BY TAKING INTO
ACCOUNT A CORPORATE AN...
RALPH D. STACEY, “MANAGING THE UNKNOWABLE: STRATEGIC BOUNDARIES BETWEEN ORDER AND CHAOS IN ORGANIZATIONS.” (1992)
“MOST WE...
MATS ALVESSON AND ANDRÉ SPICER, "THE STUPIDITY PARADOX” (2017)
DEFINITION OF FUNCTIONAL STUPIDITY
THE INABILITY AND/OR
UNW...
INNOSIGHT ANALYSIS BASED ON PUBLIC S&P DATA SOURCES. MORE INFO: INNOSIGHT.COM
AVERAGE COMPANY LIFESPAN ON S&P 500 INDEX
YE...
“TEAMS THAT RELY ON TRADITIONAL LINEAR TIMELINES GET
CAUGHT IN A CYCLE OF TACTICAL RESPONSES TO WHAT FEELS
LIKE CONSTANT C...
TACTICS STRATEGY VISION
SYSTEMS-
LEVEL

EVOLUTION
M
ore
—
—
—
—
—
Data, evidence, and certainty —
—
—
—
—
Less
1-2
years —...
“PLANS ARE WORTHLESS, 

BUT PLANNING IS EVERYTHING.”
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
DON’T BE FUNCTIONALLY STUPID
MANAGING COMPLEXITY − TAKEAWAYS
THINK PEOPLE, NOT FRAMEWORKS
PRACTICE CRITICAL THINKING
ASK T...
MINDSET
DESIGNING FOR COMPLEXITY
“THE ENTIRE ‘FIELD’ OF UX (AND 

‘DESIGN THINKING’) EMERGED TO
ACCOMMODATE INSUFFICIENT
PRODUCT MANAGEMENT PRACTICE.“
PETE...
MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM
ONE THAT 

COMES TO THE RESCUE
OF ANOTHER
ONE THAT
CHAMPIONS 

A CAUSE
DEFINITION OF “WHITE KNIGHT”
(1...
BY MARY C. LAMIA, PH.D. AND MARILYN J. KRIEGER, PH.D 

“INTRODUCTION TO THE WHITE KNIGHT SYNDROME,” PSYCHOLOGY TODAY (2009...
BASED ON MARY C. LAMIA, PH.D. AND MARILYN J. KRIEGER, PH.D 

“INTRODUCTION TO THE WHITE KNIGHT SYNDROME,” PSYCHOLOGY TODAY...
BASED ON BY PAUL ADAMS, “THE END OF NAVEL GAZING,” UX LONDON (2018)
User Needs Business Goals
Technical Constraints
UX
RAN...
BASED ON BY PAUL ADAMS, “THE END OF NAVEL GAZING,” UX LONDON (2018)
User Needs Business Goals
Technical Constraints
UX
RAN...
PAUL ADAMS, “THE END OF NAVEL GAZING,” UX LONDON (2018)
Support
Recruiting
Finance
HR
Analytics
Engineering
Finance
Design...
“WHEN A DESIGNER'S CONCEPTUAL PLACEMENTS BECOME 

CATEGORIES OF THINKING, THE RESULT CAN BE MANNERED
IMITATIONS OF AN EARL...
“IT’S YOUR JOB TO 

MAKE OTHERS UNCOMFORTABLE.“
PETER MERHOLZ, "MY JOURNEY WITH EXPERIENCE STRATEGY”, UX STRAT USA (2015)
...
DESIGN, DON'T DEFAULT *
DESIGNING FOR COMPLEXITY − TAKEAWAYS
LEARN TO LIVE WITH UNCERTAINTY
DON'T GET TOO COMFORTABLE
CHAM...
CONTEXT PLANNING
DEALING WITH COMPLEX PROBLEMS
MINDSET
RECOGNISING COMPLEXITY MANAGING COMPLEXITY DESIGNING FOR COMPLEXITY...
“YOU CAN SEE ONLY AS 

FAR AS THE HEADLIGHTS, 

BUT YOU CAN MAKE THE
WHOLE TRIP THAT WAY.”
E. L. DOCTOROW
⚓
THANK YOU
HERTJE BRODERSEN ∙ @HYPERCATALECTA
HYPERCATALECTA.COM 𐄁 LINKEDIN.COM/IN/HERTJEBRODERSEN
All from thenounprojec...
It's Not Simple, Stupid: Dealing with Complex Systems and Wicked Problems
It's Not Simple, Stupid: Dealing with Complex Systems and Wicked Problems
It's Not Simple, Stupid: Dealing with Complex Systems and Wicked Problems
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It's Not Simple, Stupid: Dealing with Complex Systems and Wicked Problems

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The talk explored how we, as information architects, can detect, explain and handle complexity when clarity seems elusive. Presented at Euro IA 2019 in Riga and at WIAD 2020 in Zürich.

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It's Not Simple, Stupid: Dealing with Complex Systems and Wicked Problems

  1. 1. ⚓ HERTJE BRODERSEN ∙ @HYPERCATALECTA EUROIA 2019・RIGA・26. SEPTEMBER 2019 Dealing with Complex Systems and Wicked Problems IT’S NOT SIMPLE, STUPID!
  2. 2. DEALING WITH COMPLEX PROBLEMS CONTEXT RECOGNISING COMPLEXITY PLANNING MANAGING FOR COMPLEXITY MINDSET DESIGNING FOR COMPLEXITY
  3. 3. CONTEXT RECOGNIZING COMPLEXITY
  4. 4. GLENN CORBETT, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF FIRE SCIENCE AT JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE “ALL THE SENSITIVE TECHNOLOGY 
 AT THE HEART OF SYSTEM HAD BEEN UNDONE BY A CASCADE OF OVERSIGHTS AND ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTIONS 
 BUILT INTO THE OVERALL DESIGN.”
  5. 5. MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM DIFFICULT TO ANALYZE, UNDERSTAND, 
 OR EXPLAIN A WHOLE MADE UP OF COMPLICATED OR INTERRELATED PARTS DEFINITIONS “COMPLICATED” “COMPLEX”
  6. 6. BASED ON FRANCES WESTLEY, BRENDA ZIMMERMAN, AND MICHAEL QUINN PATTON, 
 “GETTING TO MAYBE: HOW THE WORLD IS CHANGED” (2007) SIMPLE BAKE A CAKE COMPLICATED BUILD A ROCKET COMPLEX RAISE A CHILD TYPES OF PROBLEMS
  7. 7. “DISASTERS CAN OCCUR WHEN COMPLEX ISSUES ARE MANAGED OR MEASURED AS IF THEY ARE MERELY COMPLICATED OR EVEN SIMPLE.” FRANCES WESTLEY, BRENDA ZIMMERMAN, AND MICHAEL QUINN PATTON, 
 “GETTING TO MAYBE: HOW THE WORLD IS CHANGED” (2007)
  8. 8. BASED ON: “CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK” BY DAVE SNOWDEN, “STACEY MATRIX” BY RALPH D. STACEY CYNEFIN FRAMEWORKSTACEY MATRIX
  9. 9. BASED ON: “CYNEFIN FRAMEWORK” BY DAVE SNOWDEN, “STACEY MATRIX” BY RALPH D. STACEY, “TYPES OF PROBLEMS” BY FRANCES WESTLEY ET. AL. Close to agreement Far from agreement Close to Certainty Far from Certainty OBVIOUS (SIMPLE) COMPLEX CHAOTIC COMPLICATED Best Practice Good Practice Emergent Practice Novel Practice DISORDERED Confusion THE SPECTRUM OF PROCESS COMPLEXITY
  10. 10. HORST W. J. RITTEL AND MELVIN M. WEBBER, "DILEMMAS IN A GENERAL THEORY OF PLANNING” (1972) THERE IS NO DEFINITE FORMULATION 
 OF A WICKED PROBLEM WICKED PROBLEMS HAVE NO STOPPING RULE SOLUTIONS TO WICKED PROBLEMS ARE NOT TRUE-OR-FALSE, BUT GOOD-OR-BAD THERE IS NO IMMEDIATE AND NO ULTIMATE
 TEST OF A SOLUTION TO A WICKED PROBLEM EVERY SOLUTION TO A WICKED PROBLEM IS A 
 "ONE-SHOT OPERATION"; BECAUSE THERE IS NO OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN BY TRIAL-AND-ERROR, 
 EVERY ATTEMPT COUNTS SIGNIFICANTLY EVERY WICKED PROBLEM CAN BE CONSIDERED 
 TO BE A SYMPTOM OF ANOTHER PROBLEM THE EXISTENCE OF A DISCREPANCY REPRESENTING A WICKED PROBLEM CAN BE EXPLAINED IN NUMEROUS WAYS. THE CHOICE OF EXPLANATION DETERMINES 
 THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM'S RESOLUTION WICKED PROBLEMS DO NOT HAVE AN ENUMERABLE (OR AN EXHAUSTIVELY DESCRIBABLE) SET OF POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS, NOR IS THERE A WELL- DESCRIBED SET OF PERMISSIBLE OPERATIONS 
 THAT MAY BE INCORPORATED INTO THE PLAN EVERY WICKED PROBLEM IS ESSENTIALLY UNIQUE 10 CRITERIA OF WICKED PROBLEMS THE PLANNER HAS NO RIGHT TO BE WRONG
  11. 11. “WE ARE CAPABLE OF SHIFTING A SYSTEM FROM COMPLEXITY TO ORDER AND MAINTAINING IT THERE IN SUCH A WAY THAT IT BECOMES PREDICTABLE.” CYNTHIA. F. KURTZ AND DAVE J. SNOWDEN, “THE NEW DYNAMICS OF STRATEGY: SENSE-MAKING IN A COMPLEX 
 AND COMPLICATED WORLD “IBM SYSTEMS JOURNAL, VOL 42, NO 3 (2003)
  12. 12. DETERMINE THE TYPE OF PROBLEM DEALING WITH COMPLEXITY − TAKEAWAYS DON’T USE FORMULAIC SOLUTIONS ACT, AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY ACKNOWLEDGE WICKED PROBLEMS MAKE TIME TO DEAL WITH COMPLEXITY
  13. 13. PLANNING MANAGING FOR COMPLEXITY
  14. 14. “THE ACCUMULATION OF WRONG DECISIONS AND INCORRECT INFORMATION CAN ONLY BE EXPLAINED BY TAKING INTO ACCOUNT A CORPORATE AND PROJECT CULTURE THAT SYSTEMATICALLY SUPPRESSED SIGNS OF WRONG-HEADED DEVELOPMENTS AS WELL AS ALARMING WARNINGS FROM EXTERNAL BODIES.” ABGEORDNETENHAUS BERLIN, INQUIRY INTO FAILURES AND DELAYS IN CONSTRUCTING THE BERLIN-BRANDENBURG AIRPORT (2016) (TRANSLATION MINE)
  15. 15. RALPH D. STACEY, “MANAGING THE UNKNOWABLE: STRATEGIC BOUNDARIES BETWEEN ORDER AND CHAOS IN ORGANIZATIONS.” (1992) “MOST WESTERN MANAGERS BELIEVE THAT LONG- TERM SUCCESS FLOWS FROM A STATE OF STABILITY, HARMONY, PREDICTABILITY, DISCIPLINE, AND CONSENSUS. (…) THIS BELIEF LEADS THEM TO DEMAND GENERAL PRESCRIPTIONS THAT THEY CAN IMMEDIATELY CONVERT INTO SUCCESSFUL ACTION.”
  16. 16. MATS ALVESSON AND ANDRÉ SPICER, "THE STUPIDITY PARADOX” (2017) DEFINITION OF FUNCTIONAL STUPIDITY THE INABILITY AND/OR UNWILLINGNESS TO USE COGNITIVE AND REFLEXIVE CAPABILITY IN ANYTHING OTHER THAN NARROW OR CIRCUMSPECT WAYS OR:
 
 OTHERWISE SMART PEOPLE STOP THINKING AND START DOING STUPID THINGS
  17. 17. INNOSIGHT ANALYSIS BASED ON PUBLIC S&P DATA SOURCES. MORE INFO: INNOSIGHT.COM AVERAGE COMPANY LIFESPAN ON S&P 500 INDEX YEARS, ROLLING 7-YEAR AVERAGE 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 2020 2025 2030
  18. 18. “TEAMS THAT RELY ON TRADITIONAL LINEAR TIMELINES GET CAUGHT IN A CYCLE OF TACTICAL RESPONSES TO WHAT FEELS LIKE CONSTANT CHANGE BEING FOISTED UPON THEM FROM OUTSIDE FORCES. OVER TIME, THOSE TACTICAL RESPONSES — WHICH TAKE SIGNIFICANT INTERNAL ALIGNMENT AND EFFORT — DRAIN THE ORGANIZATION’S RESOURCES AND MAKE THEM VULNERABLE TO DISRUPTION.”  AMY WEBB, “HOW TO DO STRATEGIC PLANNING LIKE A FUTURIST” HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW (JULY 2019)
  19. 19. TACTICS STRATEGY VISION SYSTEMS- LEVEL
 EVOLUTION M ore — — — — — Data, evidence, and certainty — — — — — Less 1-2 years — — 2-5 years— — 5-10 years— — 10+ years A FUTURIST’S FRAMEWORK FOR STRATEGIC PLANNING AMY WEBB, “HOW TO DO STRATEGIC PLANNING LIKE A FUTURIST” HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, JULY 30, 2019
  20. 20. “PLANS ARE WORTHLESS, 
 BUT PLANNING IS EVERYTHING.” DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER
  21. 21. DON’T BE FUNCTIONALLY STUPID MANAGING COMPLEXITY − TAKEAWAYS THINK PEOPLE, NOT FRAMEWORKS PRACTICE CRITICAL THINKING ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS BE REALISTIC AND PRAGMATIC ABOUT PLANS
  22. 22. MINDSET DESIGNING FOR COMPLEXITY
  23. 23. “THE ENTIRE ‘FIELD’ OF UX (AND 
 ‘DESIGN THINKING’) EMERGED TO ACCOMMODATE INSUFFICIENT PRODUCT MANAGEMENT PRACTICE.“ PETER MERHOLZ, "MY JOURNEY WITH EXPERIENCE STRATEGY”, UX STRAT USA (2015)
  24. 24. MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM ONE THAT 
 COMES TO THE RESCUE OF ANOTHER ONE THAT CHAMPIONS 
 A CAUSE DEFINITION OF “WHITE KNIGHT” (1) (2)
  25. 25. BY MARY C. LAMIA, PH.D. AND MARILYN J. KRIEGER, PH.D 
 “INTRODUCTION TO THE WHITE KNIGHT SYNDROME,” PSYCHOLOGY TODAY (2009) DEFINITION OF WHITE KNIGHT SYNDROM WHITE KNIGHTS ARE MEN AND WOMEN WHO ENTER INTO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS WITH DAMAGED AND VULNERABLE PARTNERS, HOPING THAT LOVE WILL
 TRANSFORM THEIR
 BEHAVIOR OR LIVES.
  26. 26. BASED ON MARY C. LAMIA, PH.D. AND MARILYN J. KRIEGER, PH.D 
 “INTRODUCTION TO THE WHITE KNIGHT SYNDROME,” PSYCHOLOGY TODAY (2009) DEFINITION OF WHITE KNIGHT SYNDROM HOPING THAT LOVE
 
 TRANSFORM THEIR
 
 
 BEHAVIOR OR LIVES. WHITE KNIGHTS ARE MEN AND WOMEN WHO ENTER INTO ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS WITH DAMAGED AND VULNERABLE PARTNERS, PROFESSIONALINTO STRUGGLING ORGANIZATIONS ORGANIZATION AS WELL THEIR WILL AS THEIR USERS’ KNOWLEDGE Sorry, Mary and Marilyn! BASTARDIZED FOR UX FOLK
  27. 27. BASED ON BY PAUL ADAMS, “THE END OF NAVEL GAZING,” UX LONDON (2018) User Needs Business Goals Technical Constraints UX RANDOM UX DIAGRAM THAT YOU’VE PUT IN DOZENS OF PRESENTATIONS
  28. 28. BASED ON BY PAUL ADAMS, “THE END OF NAVEL GAZING,” UX LONDON (2018) User Needs Business Goals Technical Constraints UX RANDOM UX DIAGRAM THAT YOU’VE PUT IN DOZENS OF PRESENTATIONS
  29. 29. PAUL ADAMS, “THE END OF NAVEL GAZING,” UX LONDON (2018) Support Recruiting Finance HR Analytics Engineering Finance Design Research PM Biz Ops Marketing LEADER
 SHIP
  30. 30. “WHEN A DESIGNER'S CONCEPTUAL PLACEMENTS BECOME 
 CATEGORIES OF THINKING, THE RESULT CAN BE MANNERED IMITATIONS OF AN EARLIER INVENTION THAT ARE NO LONGER RELEVANT TO THE DISCOVERY OF SPECIFIC POSSIBILITIES IN A NEW SITUATION. IDEAS ARE THEN FORCED ONTO A SITUATION RATHER THAN DISCOVERED IN THE PARTICULARITIES AND NOVEL POSSIBILITIES OF THAT SITUATION.” RICHARD BUCHANAN, “WICKED PROBLEMS IN DESIGN THINKING”, DESIGN ISSUES: VOL. VIII, NUMBER 2 (1992)
  31. 31. “IT’S YOUR JOB TO 
 MAKE OTHERS UNCOMFORTABLE.“ PETER MERHOLZ, "MY JOURNEY WITH EXPERIENCE STRATEGY”, UX STRAT USA (2015) and yourself
  32. 32. DESIGN, DON'T DEFAULT * DESIGNING FOR COMPLEXITY − TAKEAWAYS LEARN TO LIVE WITH UNCERTAINTY DON'T GET TOO COMFORTABLE CHAMPION THE CAUSE, BUT STAY HUMBLE SOLVE FOR PROBLEMS, NOT TOOLS * with a nod do Christina Wodtke
  33. 33. CONTEXT PLANNING DEALING WITH COMPLEX PROBLEMS MINDSET RECOGNISING COMPLEXITY MANAGING COMPLEXITY DESIGNING FOR COMPLEXITY What yuo can do WHITE KNIGHT SYNDROME Watch out for FUNCTIONAL STUPIDITYWICKED PROBLEMS DETERMINE THE TYPE OF PROBLEM ACKNOWLEDGE WICKED PROBLEMS MAKE TIME TO DEAL WITH COMPLEXITY DON’T USE FORMULAIC SOLUTIONS ACT, AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY DON’T BE FUNCTIONALLY STUPID ASK THE TOUGH QUESTIONS BE REALISTIC AND PRAGMATIC ABOUT PLANS THINK PEOPLE, NOT FRAMEWORKS PRACTICE CRITICAL THINKING DESIGN, DON'T DEFAULT * SOLVE FOR PROBLEMS, NOT TOOLS CHAMPION THE CAUSE, BUT STAY HUMBLE LEARN TO LIVE WITH UNCERTAINTY DON'T GET TOO COMFORTABLE
  34. 34. “YOU CAN SEE ONLY AS 
 FAR AS THE HEADLIGHTS, 
 BUT YOU CAN MAKE THE WHOLE TRIP THAT WAY.” E. L. DOCTOROW
  35. 35. ⚓ THANK YOU HERTJE BRODERSEN ∙ @HYPERCATALECTA HYPERCATALECTA.COM 𐄁 LINKEDIN.COM/IN/HERTJEBRODERSEN All from thenounproject.com: “Puzzle" by Nur Asyrof Muhammad “Strategy" by Chameleon Design “Brain In a Jar” by Dairy Free Design “Cake” by Arif Fatoni “Rocket” by ProSymbols “Baby” by Kokota “Monster” By Joel McKinney  “Scribble” by Alice Noir “Octopus” by Pascal Heß “Donkey” by Graphic Tigers “Knight” by tulpahn From www.flaticon.com
 “Cerberus” Icon made by Freepik  GIFSICONS IMAGES “Notre Dame en feu, 20h06” by GodefroyParis (CC BY SA 4.0) “Marienkoogsdeich” by Hertje Brodersen (CC BY SA 4.0) “Hunchback of Notre Dame” https://giphy.com/gifs/reaction-EqiFV8QX3DEc4bfTc5 “This is Fine” https://giphy.com/gifs/trump-consequences-NTur7XlVDUdqM “The Young Pope Page” https://giphy.com/gifs/series-giffferr-NVDxmTAYh5Thu
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The talk explored how we, as information architects, can detect, explain and handle complexity when clarity seems elusive. Presented at Euro IA 2019 in Riga and at WIAD 2020 in Zürich.

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