Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wicked problem = Dealing with a Sports Overhaul in Pittsburgh Public Schools

Wicked problem - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Wicked problem"

Check out what is meant with a wicked problem and then how it fits in our struggle to overhaul sports opportunities at Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Sports as a topic is interesting to me, and nearly everyone else. We all have a concept of and reaction to sports. But, these emotions are often unlike the others. Sports can be hard to make into a definitive state: Football, cheerleading, special events, training, games, out-of-season, recruitment, retirement, and so on.

1.There is no definitive formulation of a wicked problem.

2.Wicked problems have no stopping rule.

I like to tell the swimmers on the team that the swim season ends only when one dies. Once you are a swimmer, you are always a swimmer. There are no 'seasons' to stop us from swimming and staying healthy. We need to talk and think in lifestyle manners, not stop and go seasons.

3.Solutions to wicked problems are not true-or-false, but better or worse.

Likewise, playing the game isn't about winning-or-not, but rather, improvement, effort, learning, and excitement.

4.There is no immediate and no ultimate test of a solution to a wicked problem.

Sports are filled with many tests -- but these can't be easily measured. Sports scholarships, next level participation, coaches made, evaluations, and strength gains are factors. My ultimate test and yours might be very different.

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.

I crave the shots that are more of the lay-up type, and I favor less the full-court buzzer beater shots.

6.Wicked problems do not have an enumerable (or an exhaustively describable) set of potential solutions, nor is there a well-described set of permissible operations that may be incorporated into the plan.

The PPS Sports and Athletics efforts have lots of moving parts: Students, coaches, schools, principals, partnerships, competitors, facilities, and so on.

7.Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
District VIII = the City League. It isn't VII = WPIAL.

8.Every wicked problem can be considered to be a symptom of another problem.

How many times do we hear that it is the teachers fault, or the parents fault, or the middle-school sports development fault. Plus there are economic, racial, gender and other big ass (role model) hurdles to navigate.

9.The existence of a discrepancy representing a wicked problem can be explained in numerous ways. The choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem's resolution.

The victors get to write the history. But, they don't get to control the rule book.

10.The planner has no right to be wrong (planners are liable for the consequences of the actions they generate).


Seeking to generalize the concept of problem wickedness to areas other than planning and policy, Conklin identifies the following as defining characteristics of wicked problems:

  1. The problem is not understood until after the formulation of a solution.
  2. Wicked problems have no stopping rule.
  3. Solutions to wicked problems are not right or wrong.
  4. Every wicked problem is essentially novel and unique.
  5. Every solution to a wicked problem is a 'one shot operation'.
  6. Wicked problems have no given alternative solutions.

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