Design Thinking : The Wicked Problem of Crete, Greece

Design Thinking : The Wicked Problem of Crete, Greece

What is The Wicked Problem?

A “Wicked Problem is a social, environmental, economic or political problem. Some other terms of “Wicked Problem” are complex or tricky problem. These problems are usually impossible to solve. On the other hand it needs a deep understanding in order to find come up with an innovative solution.

Planners deal with – societal problems – are inherently different from the problems that scientists and perhaps some classes of engineers deal with. Planning problems are inherently wicked.

Designing external representations to support
(Rittel & Webber, 1984, p. 135-136)

Rittel and Webber give a number of characteristics of these casual “Wicked Problems”

  1. There is no definitive formula for a wicked problem.
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule, as there’s no way to know your solution is final.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, they can only be good-or-bad.
  4. There is no immediate 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 don’t have a set number of potential solutions.
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
  8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.
  9. There is always more than one explanation for a wicked problem because the explanations vary greatly depending on the individual perspective.
  10. The planner/designer has no right to be wrong and must be fully responsible for their actions.

The Problem with Natural Resources of Water

The present water components of an environmental, social, and economic origin. According to some experiences and specialists, the water crisis in the 21st century is crucial and much more related to management than to a real crisis of stress and scarcity.
Water resource management has often been described as a wicked problem, especially because there are no easy solutions. This is a wicked problem because there are unknown dimensions related to science.

In many European countries, climate change has significantly affected the frequency and intensity of phenomena such as drought. In southern and south-eastern Europe, according to global climatic models, severe droughts that once appeared once every 100 years may now reappear every 10-50 years.

Corvara, Alta Badia
Corvara, Alta Badia 

The Wicked Problem of Crete

One of the main characteristics of Crete is that it’s one of the high-risk areas of drought phenomena as a result of climate change. This is an inefficient use of its water reserves from 10-50 years. Southern Crete is a very warm area. This area usually doesn’t have spring and autumn, but winter and summer. The winter can have hefty rainfall. Summer can have almost drought due to high temperatures and in severe cases, it rains with dust from Africa.

In rural areas lacking water, the rational use of water resources is a necessity. As the amount of crop production increased then the irrigation water to a point of satiety, increased too. So the extra amount of water does not increase production.

Owing to these intense weather conditions, the farmers need large amounts of water to care for their rural areas. But most of the time they are not enough not only for watering their estates but not for drinking water. This is a wicked problem.

Open Questions to Ask

  • How much water is available?
  • Where is the water coming from?
  • How is this changing in time?
  • What is causing these changes?

In addition, there are in almost all cases, multiple stakeholders that deal with the management of water resources. This renders the decision-making difficult and sometimes even impossible.

Wicked Problem. Some questions to ask.

  • When does a flood become a nuisance?
  • Is the water level reaches ankle, knee, or hip-high?
  • What is the water scarcity?
  • How do we deal with water availability, water demand, and water allocation?
  • What are the critical moments in time and space?
  • Are the they shifting with climate change?

Related to above :

  • What are our windows of this opportunity?
  • How much information do we rneed to enable informed decision-making?
  • What are our different perspectives and perceptions?
  • How do we bring them together to be able to prioritize the actions?
  • How about equity?
  • Is migration driven by equity imbalance?
  • Are the imbalance and migration-related to the water?
  • Are smallholder farmers looking towards a sustainable and acceptable level of quality of life?
  • Or is it a dead-end road and should we make more haste with alternative solutions?

The Characteristics Of This Wicked Problem

Now lets analyze the characteristics of a Wicked Problem from our example above :

  1. There is no definitive formula for a wicked problem. The production relationship of a crop and the amount of water from the treatment depends on various factors. Such as climatic conditions, soil, and applied crop cultivation.
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule. As there’s no way to know that the solution is final. Due to the lack of irrigation planning, farmers began to experiment and to feel safe tend to increase the amount of water irrigation, especially when its price is very low.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, they can only be good-or-bad. One solution is to come to a common agreement on the amount of water each may use, but an unpredictable factor is the extreme weather conditions.
  4. There is no immediate test of a solution to a wicked problem. Besides other problems related to environmental changes, In Greece, we have a big bureaucracy problem, so making decisions have enough time.
  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. In this case, it is important to implement effective planning. This can happen, with the co-operation of ministries and agencies. So, they can implement some actions of direct return by setting up scientific working groups on the impact on each crop.
  6. Wicked problems don’t have a set number of potential solutions. Reduce water evaporation from the ground and also reduce perspiration losses and increase water storage.
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique. Even if water resource management is a global “wicked problem”, there are some unfortunate factors that make it unique. Such as soil morphology, weather conditions, the policies implemented in each country and region, etc.
  8. Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem. The production relationship of a crop and the quantity of irrigation water depends on various factors. Such as climatic conditions, soil, and applied cultivation techniques. Because of the lack of irrigation design (when and how much water to put), farmers irrigate empirically and to feel safe tend to increase the amount of irrigation water, especially when its price is low.
  9. There is always more than one explanation for a wicked problem because the explanations vary greatly depending on the individual perspective. Crete is one of the high-risk areas of dryness. As a result of climate change and the inefficient use of water reserves. A typical example that verifies it, is the reduced rainfall recorded in the current hydro-logical year throughout the region of Crete.
  10. The planner/designer has no right to be wrong and must be fully responsible for his/her actions. Optimization of the use of irrigation water through.
    a) The annual maintenance of the irrigation network.
    b) The calculation of the irrigation dose based on the meteorological information, the type of the soil, the type and age of the crop, and also the time of the previous irrigation. In the case of reduced water availability (periods of dry), the water needs to follow a strict process of calculating at critical stages of plant growth.

At this point, I recommended watching the talk from Tom Wujec. This talk will give you an approach to how to practice systems thinking and collaborative visualization.

How Design Thinking Can Help Us To Solve Wicked Problems?

Initially, design thinking is a methodology that can help us to understand any kind of problem and on the other hand, it’s producing innovative and completing solutions. This method is used to address the “Wicked Problem”. A combination of systems thinking and on another hand, the agile methodology will give you the ability to reiterate and test your solution to get the most valuable solution.

In Conclusion

When you have a wicked problem, then a large part of solving it is actually defining the problem itself. Keep in your mind that “Wicked problems” are not evil, is just challenging because there is no apparent single cause. As designers, we have the main responsibility to find and generate the best possible solution. This can happen even if the Wicked Problem itself is vague and imprecise and the best solution does not yet exist.

Images

Hero Image: Copyright holder: Sergei Gussev. Copyright terms and license: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Giuseppe Milo – Corvara, Alta Badia – Landscape photography. Copyright terms and license: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)