Posted: 22 Mar. 2021 1 min. read

Wicked problems are being recast as wicked opportunities

By Anna Muoio, senior manager (Deloitte LLP)

I want to talk to you about "wickedness"–but not the kind of wickedness you're thinking. Since the 1960s, we've had a term to describe public health crises like malaria—and also rising crime, climate change, joblessness, and other persistent ills. They are "wicked problems." Wickedness isn't a degree of sheer difficulty. It means the problem springs from many diverse sources, is emergent and shifting, and will never have one right answer.

In the Deloitte Business Trends report, I co-authored a new feature article with William Eggers that makes the case for seeing wicked problems as wicked opportunities.

We're seeing a trend by which many kinds of "wicked problems"—complex, dynamic, and seemingly intractable social challenges—are being reframed and attacked with renewed vigor through solution ecosystems. Unprecedented networks of nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, health professionals, governments, and international development institutions—and yes, businesses—are coalescing around them, and recasting them as wicked opportunities.

To support our case we examine a variety of deep-seated problems, ranging from malaria to obesity to water stewardship and outline a framework for building the problem solving ecosystems necessary to turn these kinds of wicked problems into wicked opportunities.

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