Wicked Problems for Today’s Leaders

Einstein-creativity-problems

My wife and I wanted to get a motion detector in our backyard. We had a backlight on the house already. The house was a new construction. The motion detector would be additional security. We estimated the price to be under $200.

When the electrician arrived, he talked with us about our needs and did a thorough inspection of the home. He came back with an estimate of over $600. He rationalized this price due to the configuration of our home and the difficulty of wiring this fixture.

My wife and I both wanted this motion detector. However, we were unwilling to pay the price for this addition. Thus, we needed to redefined the problem. We wanted this motion detector as extra security for the home. We asked the electrician what it would cost to change out the light fixture. He mentioned less than $80. The motion detector was about $50. By redefining or refocusing the problem, we were able to carryout a better solution. 

In search of more lucrative markets, today’s companies are looking for more opportunities across the globe. The United States is a land where dreams come true. Individuals from across the globe come to this country for possible opportunities. Yet, companies fail every day in the marketplace.

According to one study, the failure rate for new startups is about 46%. Botch understanding of your business competencies and market opportunities may put to be fatal. On the contrary, businesses that provide value to customers by solving their pressing problems are rewarded.

By solving someone’s challenging problems, individuals are compensated very well. Thus, solving ‘wicked problems’ could yield greater rewards.  In this session, we will discuss the concepts of wicked problems and introduces how organizations can solve them with effective leaders who provide a burst of innovative thinking.

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Technology Relevancy

Components of Technology

We can’t survive without technology.  Are we too dependent on it?  When the computer network is down in our office, it’s a pretty wasted day because we are paperless.  Yet, you won’t find many modern organizations that can operate when their technology malfunctions. 

This week we will focus on technology relevancy as part of the three practical applications (i.e. value modeling, technology relevancy, and human factor buy-in) in socio-technical systems.  

Organizations must understand that technology needs to be relevant as it relates to benefiting the whole socio-technical system.  Technology relates to the combination of skills and equipment that managers use in the design, production, and distribution of goods and services.[1]   

Gareth Jones and Jennifer George, authors of Contemporary Management, argue the significance of technology forces on organizations:  “Technological forces can have profound implications for managers and organizations. Technological change can make established products obsolete….”  The graveyard of many businesses is littered with numerous failed opportunities of senior executives to understand market shifts and technology opportunities.   

As an engineer myself, we are taught to use theory in order to build, design, and operate technical systems, whether mechanical, digital, or otherwise. Sometimes this creates a technical superiority over the other components of this socio-technical system. 

Organizations should obtain input from employees to ensure that the organization has not only the best technology for its operations but the right technology.[2]  This sharing of information can only come with mutual trust of leaders and followers.  Gary Yukl, author of Leadership in Organizations, notes, “Empowerment is more feasible when there is a high level of mutual trust…Leaders can affect the psychological employment of followers in many ways, and participative leadership and delegation are only two of the relevant behaviors .”[3] 

There have been numerous cases where organizations have purchased new technology to solve a problem or to become more efficient when a simple conversation with impacted employees would have produced better results at a lower cost. Therefore, organizations should invest their time in identifying the relevant technologies for their socio-technical system in a participatory manner.    

Discuss the concept of technology relevancy for today’s organizations. 

© 2013 by Daryl D. Green                                    


[1] Jones, G.  & George, J. (2009). Contemporary Management

[2] “Leading others while supporting organizational values” by Daryl D. Green

[3]Leadership in Organizations by Gary Yukl