Behavioural Science Series with Keith Grint – Wicked Problems, Clumsy Solutions and Leading Change

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I am delighted to be chairing Behavioural Science Series with Keith Grint – Wicked Problems, Clumsy Solutions and Leading Change.  This is a free webinar thanks to the generous sponsorship by Dr Patrick Poon.

In this webinar, Professor Grint will outline the definitions of tame (simple and complicated) and wicked (complex) problems – particularly those around governance, culture and change.

Many crises that confront humankind and change management efforts in complex ecosystems without clear boundaries are wicked problems. They are often problems with many stakeholders. So everyone is responsible and no one really has total ownership.


  • It is important that we understand the difference between simple, complicated, and complex problems.
  • Simple and complicated problems can be termed as tame problems.
  • Simple problems often involve known variables and have predictable outcomes. Examples are inventory control and the making of a Swatch watch.
  • Complicated problems often involve known variables, known unknowns and multiple outcomes. An example is putting a man on the moon, starting a new product cycle.
  • Tame problems can normally be modelled and have been solved before in other contexts.
  • Complex problems are wicked problems. They involve known variables, unknown unknowns and have unpredictable multiple outcomes. Climate risk and solving world hunger are examples of such problems. They involve many moving parts, an intervention in one – part causes changes in other parts, and there are no obvious answers or pathways.

Solving wicked problems will require a certain attitude of mind – the willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and clumsiness in finding solutions – as clean-cut and elegant solutions cannot be achieved. Clumsy solutions can be found through a series of iteration and reflexivity.

The solutions are normally discovered in a collaboration between good minds who need to engage with one another constructively. This requires a high level of trust as well as self-awareness about how our individual preferences and world-views colour our own interpretation and answers.

Professor Grint will introduce three worldviews – the egalitarian, the heirarchists and the individualist – based on the work of the anthropologist Mary Douglas, and how we could get the best of each worldview. He will also introduce the concept and the exercise of practical wisdom and judgement when we begin to construct clumsy solutions.

The ability to listen, pay attention, withholding quick and reactive judgment in a background of relatedness is required.

Nick Spencer and Angela Darlington will join us in what promises to be an insightful and far-ranging discussion with Professor Keith Grint in the context of the IFoA and the profession.

This webinar will broadcast live at 09.00 on Monday 19 April 2021. 


Image credit: “10 Properties of Wicked Problem” as seen on Adapted from Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning by Horst W.J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber.