Friday, March 30, 2007

Life is a Wicked Problem

Yesterday I was reading about studying online (in the OpenUniversity), I was gladly surprised to see that some of their courses are now available on line for free, and, that you can even remix the content using a free software for mind maps built bye the Compendium Institute, the funny thing is that I ended up finding information wicked problems (and currently I have one, choosing the java frameworks we will use at my current job)... wicked problems are those that (from Wikipedia):
  1. There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but good-or-bad
  4. There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem
  5. 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
  6. 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
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique
  8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem
  9. 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
  10. The planner has no right to be wrong (Planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate)
And it turns out that:
  • Software development is a wicked problem (and that is my job)
  • Life is a wicked problem (and... well, I am alive)
One thing I specially liked was a document explaining in a very detailed how wicked problems happen (read it here), and it turns out that a really good way to explain it is with a graphic, like this one.

Now.. that image can be produced, by thinking that each person participating on the solving of a wicked problem has his own "pendulum" and moves from "solution thinking" to "problem thinking" on his own, not synchronized way... if find this funny... because a few days ago I was seeing Kent Beck's presentation "Ease at Work", where he describes how a lot of software developers feel (one day we are super wizards... the next we are crap.... the next we are wizards again), but we are not hired and fired in perfect sync with how we feel (sometimes we are even treated as wizards while inside we feel like losers and vice versa), and in his presentation Kent Beck says that software development is not only about programmers, that is about people, people interacting to get a problem solved (you can't have a software business without software developers, but you also can't have it without managers, even if it just a "change of hat"), so, this got me thinking... that the problem Kent Beck is describing, is precisely, a Wicked Problem. What do you think?

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