Important Ways to Understanding Wicked Problems

Prior to this course, I had no clue what a wicked problem was. In fact, when I read the title of the course, I was befuddled and was very curious to see what was in store for this course. I had knowledge of some of the complex problems that we have discussed in class, but I had never realized there was a term for them. A wicked problem is an issue, normally a social or cultural issue, that is extremely complex and there is little to no way to solve it. Some examples of wicked problems are climate change, inequality, hunger, health care, and more. Wicked problems can range in severity and what their impact is on the world. For example, a wicked problem that is extremely prevalent now is climate change. With the problem of climate change, there are so many smaller problems that encompass it that make it quite difficult to solve. Throughout my adolescence, I have always felt curious about these types of problems. When I would learn about what I now know as wicked problems, I would be so fascinated by them and what steps I could be taking to help them improve. In the past, I would research the problem and suddenly, I would fall down a rabbit hole and I would end up very anxious about what I had just learned about. This would overwhelm me and it prevented me from thinking about the problem. A goal in this course is to prevent this and develop a compassionate curiosity to the many ways to understand a wicked problem. 

Beginning with our minds, understanding a wicked problem intellectually is probably one of the most important ways for understanding, but it might be the most complicated. Through our minds, we can develop curiosity about the problems and gain knowledge about the many facets in a wicked problem. It also allows for critical thinking, which can spark new ideas that may assist the problem. With our minds, we see everything through the lens of our previous experiences and while this can be wonderful, it can also lead to making the problem more complicated. It creates different opinions, which can be polarizing and may lead to even more problems. In this course, when discussing wicked problems, I have heard opinions that differ from mine and they have been quite eye opening. To be honest, in the past, I might have disregarded them and wouldn’t have given them any thought. But through this course, I have been able to see the value of opinions that oppose mine. I believe that discussing these complex issues, with people that have different opinions, can lead to interesting ideas and creative solutions that will help the wicked problems. 

Following the mind, the heart also plays a very significant role in understanding a wicked problem. Wicked problems can invoke all sorts of emotions. Emotions like sadness, anger, fear, disgust, and shock. These emotions can occur when we see the effects of the problem or those that are going through it. For example, a wicked problem that deeply saddens me is hunger. It is devastating to hear the stories of the people who have had to go without one of our most basic needs. The wicked problem of hunger brings out my emotions of sadness and anger for these people. While it can be draining, our emotions can be one of the most powerful tools. Through our emotions, we can empathize with those affected by a wicked problem. We can realize how difficult it may be to endure the problem and all of its effects. We can be motivated to start implementing change. When understanding and evaluating wicked problems, using our hearts can be one of our greatest assets. 

Finally, the last way to understand a wicked problem is through our body. I don’t know if I fully understand this one, but here is my interpretation. To understand a wicked problem somatically, it is to be mindful. Mindfulness means to have awareness of what is going on in the moment. I feel like understanding a wicked problem somatically is very important, but often gets overlooked. Through mindfulness, we can give our body a moment to take in the wicked problem and just observe it. This is crucial to wicked problems because they can be so complex and overwhelming. Sometimes, we just need a moment to take it all in, before we start intellectually dissecting it. I also believe through mindfulness, we can develop gratitude towards what we have in our own personal experience. With my previous example of the wicked problem, hunger, being grateful for what I have allowed me to further connect with the problem. I’m able to recognize and appreciate what I have and then continue to think and try to assist the problem. With gratitude and being mindful, I have noticed a reduced amount of stress and anxiety surrounding the wicked problems. Wicked problems can create such a large amount of stress. I believe any one affected or are trying to implement change can benefit from mindfulness. Through understanding through the body, I have made me be present in the moment and develop gratitude. 

Throughout this course, I believe that I’m making my way to completing the goal of understanding wicked problems with a compassionate curiosity. In the beginning, I had a fair amount of compassionate curiosity, but through this course, it has only grown. I can improve on this by having more open conversations with people that have opposing opinions. I can also improve by practicing gratitude and implementing mindfulness practice. Through further connecting with my mind, heart, or body, I gain the tools to confidently learn, discuss, and evaluate all sorts of challenging and complex wicked problems.

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