- Six weeks ago, I heard the words “wicked problem” for the first time in my entire life. I was extremely confused as to why I was in the class because I am a fashion major. In fact, I remember talking to my family and questioning if my schedule was incorrect. On the first day, I went into the class not knowing what to expect and at the end of the 90 minutes I was taken back by the information I learned. Only a few minutes into class I quickly learned that a wicked problem is an issue, usually social or cultural, that is nearly impossible to solve due to changing and contradictory requirements. These problems are so difficult to solve because people have different views and ideas on how to resolve them, and there isn’t one correct solution. On the first day of class, we watched a documentary called the 11th hour. In this movie, they talked about the damage human beings are causing on the earth and how it will affect our lives in the future. This was a major shock to me. I knew sustainability was an issue, but not to this degree. After seeing this film I was automatically intrigued and my curiosity was sparked in environmental sciences. I had no idea that pollution, greenhouse gases, waste, etc. was affecting our home to this extent. As I began to fully get a grasp of the wicked problems presented in this world, fear grew in me. Especially after reading the Easter Island assignment. It was a moment of deja vu for me. The islanders were taking advantage of the land by overworking the soil, cutting down all the trees, and not working together to try and find a solution. This sounded eerily similar to the current situation in our society, only ours is on a larger scale. We are exploiting materials, polluting the air and oceans, and killing essential species that keep this earth alive. After reading the article I realized that if we don’t do anything about these issues we will create our own demise. Because of this I was questioning my future and if I still wanted to pursue fashion design. So much so that when I got back to my dorm room I thought about the 11th hour and contemplated changing my major to environmental sciences. My thought was someone has to try and change the world, so why not me. When I started using mindful practices, my anxiety started to go away. I accepted and acknowledged that the issues in this world are here but not irreversible. If we could get the majority of society to realize what is going on, we could definitely change the world and our fate.
- The truth is, there are many solutions to solve the wicked problems we are facing. The only problem is getting the majority of society on board with them. There is no formula or step by step solution to these problems but there are some things that help. The first tool to help solve a wicked problem is to broaden your views. Instead of only believing in your opinion, being humble and opening your mind to other options is a great way to find a solution. This tactic is helpful because others can provide great solutions that may not be obvious to you, but accepting and analyzing any potential fix is a major factor to solving a wicked problem. The next tool to use is research. Fully educating yourself on the wicked problem is key to thinking of creative but reasonable solutions. Without immense knowledge of a concept, it could potentially lead to irrational solutions or could cause even more problems later down the road. Another tool to use when trying to solve a wicked problem is to never give up. What makes a problem wicked is that there isn’t a way of knowing a solution will work. When dealing with difficult issues it is almost a guarantee that your first thought will not solve the problem. This can be very upsetting and cause someone to feel defeated. Instead of looking at it like this, see the positive: you are one step closer to knowing what will work. When it comes to resolving a wicked problem any feedback, positive or negative, is helpful so don’t let one failure derail your drive for a solution. Finally, the last tool is to believe in yourself. Everyone has their own creative ways to solve problems and each solution needs to be heard. Just because you don’t have a PhD in something doesn’t mean your opinion is irrelevant. Every single person is capable of thinking of a solution and who knows, yours could be the one that works.
Once I utilized these tools to my advantage and realized that I have the capability to make a change, I began thinking about some solutions to these wicked problems. For example, a major issue we are facing is waste in the oceans and landfills. If I started to recycle everything that I can, use my car less, and only use a refillable water bottle it would decrease my ecological footprint a great deal. Although this may seem miniscule and wouldn’t have a huge impact on the world, it may lead more people to do the same thing and this chain reaction effect could potentially make the difference we need. I am very grateful that I was put in this class. It not only challenges me to think in a creative way but it helped me discover something I am passionate about. I realized I might want to change my major or do something different in the fashion world, like finding new ways to recycle fabrics. We only have one earth and it is our duty to fix the damage we have caused. These wicked problems won’t go away on their own and definitely not anytime soon but if we collaboratively work together to make small differences, a big change will come.