Reading something else (yeah actually it was the Economist again, what can I say?), I followed a link to this on Wikipedia the other day. Extract:
“Wicked problem” is a phrase originally used in social planning to describe a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. Moreover, because of complex interdependencies, the effort to solve one aspect of a wicked problem may reveal or create other problems… Wicked problems cannot be tackled by the traditional approach in which problems are defined, analysed and solved in sequential steps. The main reason for this is that there is no clear problem definition of wicked problems.
Wicked, man. Awesome. Reading this is the sort of thing that makes my blood go all curly,* and I waste a fair amount of time clicking through the various links on Wikipedia to try and understand it. Then I think I should probably run off and retrain in Operations Research so that I can spend my career trying to come up with solutions to wicked problems. But perhaps any worthwhile job is actually spent in trying to solve such problems, just in a narrow and specific way rather than in a zoomed-out, general way that is very theoretical but often doesn’t get anything done.
Of course, reading this also reminded me that about ten years ago my mum suggested I study operations research because I might find it interesting, but I didn’t, and here we are.
*What, your blood doesn’t do that? OK, what I mean is it makes me excited and interested. Yeah I’m writing this with a glass of Scotch to hand, what of it?