Kigge Mal Hvid on Wicked Problems

Kigge Mal Hvid spoke about wicked problems and the need to build systemic solutions rather than piecemeal solutions. Actually, that’s the takeaway. I don’t think she used the term “wicked problems” but there’s a long tradition of design thinking on the topic. She’s indirectly talking about problems without a clear solution, with multiple stakeholders, fuzzy boundaries, and where the outcome is never known and usually unexpected.

It’s hard to disagree with her observation that “the world doesn’t need any more white tea cups.” She’s talking about trivial products but by analogy she’s also arguing that the world doesn’t need tea-cup-level services either. She offered several examples of product/service systems during her presentation but seemed hostile to the idea of designing services that fail to address the root problems of human life.

I can’t join her in that indictment. It’s important to consider the larger context for service design problems but we don’t always have access to the levers we need to change a system [PDF 51k] at a fundamental level. Grappling with constraints isn’t an abdication of responsibility; indeed, it’s fundamental to the design process. Ultimately I hope there’s room for both pragmatism and idealism in the service design community.

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