Although it may seem that wicked problems by their very nature are both non-rational and undefinable, that does not mean that they are formless or without structure.
In fact it is our belief that there is both an underlying set of principles and an overarching meta-architecture that can be applied to wicked problems, and which in turn give us an opportunity to engage with them in a proactive and agenda-setting manner.
Whilst all wicked problems – and to a certain extent, all crisis events – are fundamentally unique, there is also a class or set of problems which under that umbrella label have common characteristics, even if that is in the nature of the challenges that they set rather than in the way that they manifest.
The fundamental approach that we take is based on the work of Garry Klein and others in terms of Recognition Primed Decision Making.
That is, even if we are not aware if the specific issues associated with a particular wicked problem, there are common qualities that would allow us to transfer knowledge, learning and insights from other similar challenging events to develop capabilities that would allow us to respond appropriately and effectively (or at least, more appropriately and more effectively), than if that learning did not take place.
In fact, it is the recognition that rather that the specific responses to individual wicked problems, it is the understanding of the range of challenges that they pose and the issues that causes for us in modelling, preparing for and responding to such events, that gives us the theoretical and practitioner tools to develop appropriate response frameworks and capabilities.
Covid-19 was an outstanding example of the power that RPDM can bring, if not in solving wicked problems, at last in down-playing them from insolvable irrational dilemmas to rational if challenging major incidents.
Given the nature of the strategic risk and threats that we are likely to be facing over the coming years – and which we are in fact already facing today – the ability to have this level of pattern recognition in what would otherwise be considered as unique and unprecedented events, is something that can set the foundation for a structured approach to modelling and engaging with wicked problems from a multi- disciplinary perspective, including the engagement with every sector of society, all of whom will be affected by every aspect of the emergent challenges we are facing.