Why is it mandatory for project professionals to have wicked problem solving?


“ We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

That phrase, credited to Albert Einstein, aptly encapsulates why PMI has teamed up with tech pioneer Tom Wujec to produce the top course on handling “wicked” problems—those characterized by a high degree of uncertainty, complexity, and difficulty.

Reasons why wicked problem solving is mandatory

As project managers, we don’t always have to deal with nasty problems. However, a fundamental tenet of Wicked Problem Solving (WPS) is that once we understand how to tame a wicked problem, we can apply the same scalable principles and practical solutions to most situations we encounter. Wicked Problem Solving exemplifies the higher-level thinking that Einstein is referring to, and it can be a valuable addition to a project manager’s toolkit.

Tom Wujec is the ideal introduction to the world of Wicked Problem Solving. Tom spent 25 years mentoring and working with major global corporations to solve their wicked problems before joining PMI. He devised a framework for handling wicked challenges and created a toolkit that allows project directors to apply Wicked Problem Solving theory to the real problems we confront, based on the thinking of early social science pioneers.

His work is quite timely. We live in perilous times, and the problems we face are becoming increasingly complex and large. Organizations are under growing pressure to reform themselves, in addition to macro societal concerns such as climate change and demographic shifts—a difficulty exacerbated by the COVID crisis.

You may be on the front lines of these transformation programmes as a project manager, but you’ll also be dealing with a variety of practical problems, such as remote team cooperation, language and time zone barriers, siloed companies, and increasingly specialized jobs. To meet these difficulties, we’ll need highly adaptable tools that allow us to work on a wide range of problems, from simple to complicate.

Wicked Problem Solving provides exactly that. It entails breaking down tasks into a series of “plays”—timed sequences of events that explain the problem, generate a visual representation of the problem, and outline actions the team can take to collectively address the problem.

These plays serve as the foundation for Wicked Problem Solving. They can be constructed like LEGO blocks in the hands of an expert practitioner to break down and solve the most complicated difficulties. Quickly selecting and preparing plays cuts down on prep time and boosts the effectiveness of meetings and workshops.

Indeed, Tom described Wicked Problem Addressing as a “shared operating system for solving challenges and enabling better collaboration” in a recent PMI blog article. It’s worth noting that the two concepts, problem solving and collaboration, are inextricably related. Tom believes that when we collaborate with others, we produce our best work.

If you need more insights on the same, sign up for a PMP training program at Education Edge today!

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