The issue of culture is a ‘wicked problem’ for Safety (https://safetyrisk.net/risk-and-safety-as-a-wicked-problem/ ), that makes it a wicked wicked problem. Understanding both safety and culture as wicked problems is critical for ‘tackling’ risk. I use the word tackling because there is no sense in which wicked problems can be ‘solved’, ‘controlled’ or ‘fixed’. None of such language makes sense when considering wicked problems. All wicked problems challenge where we are with their ‘wickedity’.
Indeed, culture is not a ‘problem’ yet is poses such for humans who wish to tackle it.
It is important to understand that there are many issues and things way beyond complexity.
1) Have no definitive formulation.
2) They do not have a “stopping rule.” In other words, these problems lack an inherent logic, rationale that signals when they are solved.
3) Their solutions are not true or false, and in many ways are beyond binary constructs of good or bad. Wickedity assumes paradox, ambiguity and vagueness.
4) There is no way to test the solution to a wicked problem.
5) They cannot be studied through trial and error. Their solutions are irreversible so, as Rittel and Webber put it, “every trial counts.”
6) There is no end to the number of solutions or approaches to a wicked problem.
7) All wicked problems are unique.
8) Wicked problems can always be described as the symptom of other problems.
9) The way a wicked problem is described determines its possible solutions.
10) Planners, that is those who present solutions to these problems, have no right to be wrong. Unlike mathematicians, “planners are liable for the consequences of the solutions they generate; the effects can matter a great deal to the people who are touched by those actions.”
First articulated by Rittel and Horst , wicked problems stretch way beyond any scientific or engineering sense of a ‘problem’. Typical problem solving or engineering thinking cannot be applied to wickedity (https://cognexus.org/wpf/wickedproblems.pdf ). Indeed, the language of science and engineering cannot be applied to wickedity and indeed, makes things worse. Only a Transdisciplinary approach can help in ‘tackling’ such problems.
So, when it comes to safety and culture we are attempting to tackle two intractable unsolvable problems. Seeking to tackle these from an engineering and behaviourist view simply makes things more confusing and ‘cloudy’ as we see from the work of the likes of Hopkins, Cooper and Busch (https://safetyrisk.net/culture-cannot-be-framed-through-safety/ ). Indeed, the way one ‘frames’ an issue such as culture creates more problems by apply a mono-disciplinary worldview and ethic to the problem. A bit like taking a knife to a gun fight. Most times when I read Safety trying to speak about culture in self-declared frustrations of confusion and ‘don’t talk about it’, is simply a reflection of such.
One of the global experts in Wicked Problems is an associate of SPoR, Dr Craig Ashhurst and you can read some of Craig’s work here:
Craig runs programs to help people understand wicked problems:
It matters how one frames the problem of culture just as it matters how one understands Mind, person, ethic and the unconscious. Often the brain-centrism, behaviourist-centrism and Positivist-centrism of Safety creates many of its confusions and frustrations.
And, it has no method to tackle it, regardless of how much spruiking there is of ‘difference’. You can’t take old methods to safety and then hope to be ‘different’. You can’t bring safety indoctrination to the challenges of wickedity, it actually makes things worse. You can’t come to a wicked problem and tell me all you know.
The current free module registrations are closed and the group has commenced tackling the wicked problem of culture. Unless one tackles culture as a wicked problem there is unlikely to be much learning.