Throughout this course, I have learned that wicked problems cannot easily be contained or reversed and have various potential solutions. Being mindful throughout the entirety of this course has taught me how to be more in touch with my emotions, through labeling. As well as, how to overcome them in order to achieve compassionate curiosity and further humble responses.
The first step to truly understanding a wicked problem is to have compassionate curiosity towards the issue at hand. Compassionate curiosity is really just a fancy way of saying that you care enough about the topic to ask questions and do some research. At the beginning of this course, I felt overwhelmed and afraid of some of the wicked problems we discussed, and in reaction to that fear and anxiety, I would zone out. I wanted to change the topic and not think about our decaying environment and our industry’s role in its rapid destruction. But the truth is, these wicked problems are not just a scary movie that we can turn off and never think about again, they are real and they are happening all around us at incredible speeds. I still feel this fear about these problems but I know churn that fear into curiosity and concern. Instead of thinking to myself “this is so scary!” I choose to analyze the causes and effects of these problems. Which is really all compassionate curiosity is, choosing to think about the problem in regard to its seriousness. Practicing mindfulness throughout my analysis process of understanding a wicked problem helped me to turn these strong emotions into drive. Drive to get a thorough understanding and education of the problem and all of its elements. Practicing mindfulness, for me, is labeling and accepting these emotions of fear and intimidation, taking a deep breath, and persevering through them.
The second, and final, stage of developing a thorough comprehension of these wicked problems is how you respond. I am typically upset and slightly angry at this point and at the start of the course, I would be looking for someone to blame. Don’t get me wrong, there are in many cases people or peoples that contribute greatly to the problem at hand, but the thing about wicked problems is that they have numerous causes, each with its own perspective. Placing blame is not productive and often leads to a limited perspective on the issues at hand. So I, again, take a deep breath, label and acknowledge my emotions, and begin to consider the many contributing factors and their perspectives. There is a villain in every villain’s story and nine times out of ten the real villain in these problems is those who are unaware of and uneducated on these wicked problems and the seriousness and depth of their effects. I have always been conscious of other people’s feelings and views when making decisions because I try to leave a positive mark on each person I interact with. Developing a compassionate response to these wicked problems means giving each perspective the benefit of the doubt and taking the time to consider all of the factors that have built these detailed issues before responding to them.
To place blame on a single individual or party is to water down the wickedness and depth of the problem at hand. The reason these problems are considered wicked is because they cannot be easily solved. There is no simple solution. We must be mindful of the complexity of a wicked problem. I really struggled, and still do, to get past these emotions and the need to place blame. So much so that I really struggled to develop a well-rounded understanding and response to these problems. Mindfulness, and more specifically the labeling of emotions, helped me on my journey to a humble education on the matter. Another insensitive response to these problems is to suggest or think that they can be simply resolved. This was a hard concept for me to understand and definitely took a while to fully accept; I had a hard time avoiding trying to come up with solutions and instead of evaluating the many factors that go into these problems. I often found myself frustrated because I was thinking “these problems are such an easy fix if they would just-” but it would not be a wicked problem if it could be easily and quickly defeated. Once I was able to comprehend that because of the many attributes that go into every individual problem, I was more understanding that there will be infinite different ways to go about “solving” this issue. Knowing that there is not one single solution and that some solutions might cause other issues helped me understand how and why wicked problems cannot be easily solved. Choosing to be mindful of the mere definition of what a wicked problem is was a simple way to get past these feelings of frustration in order to develop a complete and humble comprehension of the problem at hand.
Now that I have a detailed understanding of what a wicked problem is and have learned about the many intense wicked problems happening in real life I feel as though I have better and more humble decision-making skills. I think about who could be affected and the many perspectives of each controversy and always try to keep an open mind. Being aware of other people’s level of education on the matter and acknowledging their views is extremely important when trying to spread awareness about these wicked problems and their severity. Educating those around us is the main way we as individuals can contribute to leaving a positive impact on these problems. For me personally, this looks like telling my friends what fast fashion is and the harm it causes to our environment and recommending more ecologically friendly places to shop. With this newly learned compassionate curiosity towards wicked problems, I have found myself being more in touch with my emotions and others around me. I originally struggled greatly to control the emotions that have been heightened throughout this course but I now see them as indicators to dig a little deeper.