Dedicated to Building Shared Understanding of Wicked Problems

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These are papers and videos which support and explore the IBIS and the Dialogue Mapping™ approach to wicked problems. If you have any papers to suggest, please send the link to us at CogNexus Institute .

The Original and Definitive Paper on Wicked Problems:

The search for scientific bases for confronting problems of social policy is bound to fail, because of
the nature of these problems. They are "wicked" problems, whereas science has developed to deal
with "tame" problems. Policy problems cannot be definitively described. Moreover, in a pluralistic
society there is nothing like the indisputable public good; there is no objective definition of equity;
policies that respond to social problems cannot be meaningfully correct or false; and it makes no
sense to talk about "optimal solutions" to social problems unless severe qualifications are imposed
first. Even worse, there are no "solutions" in the sense of definitive and objective answers.

Horst W.J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber
Policy Sciences 4 (1973), 155-169
© Elsevier Scientific Publishing Company, Amsterdam--Printed in Scotland

 Mapping project dialogues using IBIS a case study and some reflections

A large part of a project manager’s day-to-day work is to facilitate communication between stakeholders; to get “everyone on the same page” so to speak. Indeed, this is why project management standards and methodologies devote considerable attention to communication (Project Management Institute, 2008). Despite this, project meetings – particularly those in which issues of importance are debated – can be fractious affairs that generate more heat than light. This is not surprising: project stakeholders typically come from varied professional backgrounds, so differences of opinion are to be expected.

Kailash Awati, (2011)
International Journal of Managing Projects in Business,
Vol. 4 Iss: 3, pp.498 - 511

 Taking responsibility for complexity: How implementation can achieve results in
the face of complex problems

This paper is one of the most important and perennially topical issues in the promotion of development and social change – the role of information and knowledge in improving results and ways of working.

Harry Jones, Foreward by David Booth
ISBN 978 1 907288 39 5
Working Paper (Print) ISSN 1759 2909
ODI Working Papers (Online) ISSN 1759 2917
© Overseas Development Institute 2011

Knowledge Cartography is the discipline of mapping intellectual landscapes. The focus of this book is on the process by which manually crafting interactive, hypertextual maps clarifies one’s own understanding, as well as communicating it.

(Eds.) Okada, A., Buckingham Shum, S. and Sherborne, T. Springer: Advanced Information and Knowledge Processing Series. ISBN: 978-1-84800-148-0

Watch the pioneers talk about the power of shared display. Michael Schrage, Rob Fulop and Bernie DeKoven discuss collaboration and the Technography method for facilitating productive meetings. 2006

We have used 19.9 million papers over 5 decades and 2.1 million patents to demonstrate that teams increasingly dominate solo authors in the production of knowledge. Research is increasingly done in teams across virtually all fields. Teams typically produce more highly cited research than individuals do, and this advantage is increasing over time. Teams now also produce the exceptionally high impact research, even where that distinction was once the domain of solo authors. These results are detailed for the sciences and engineering, social sciences, arts and humanities, and patents, suggesting that the process of knowledge creation has fundamentally changed.

Stefan Wuchty, Benjamin F.Jones,and Brian Uzzi
Northwestern Institute on Complexity (NICO), Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University and the Northwestern Institute on Complexity (NICO), Evanston, IL 60208, USA
April 2007


Evolving a Research Vision into a Practical Tool. Given at Design Rationale: Problems and Progress, Workshop in conjunction with Second International Conference on Design Computing & Cognition (8-12 July, 2006), Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Buckingham Shum, S., Selvin, A., Sierhuis, M., Conklin, J., Daw, M., Rowley, A., Juby, B., Michaelides, D., Slack, R., Bachler, M., Mancini, C., Procter, R., De Roure, D., Chown, T. and Hewitt, T. (2006). From gIBIS to Memetic: Evolving a Research Vision into a Practical Tool. In: Design Rationale: Problems and Progress, Workshop in conjunction with Second International Conference on Design Computing & Cognition (8-12 July, 2006), Eindhoven, Netherlands.

A plethora of technologies exist that are not necessarily tools. For technologies to become a tool, we contend, argumentation routines and design must coevolve.

Aldo de Moor, Mark Aakhus
Communications of the ACM,  Volume 49 Issue 3
March 2006

The emphasis on new and changing technologies and process models in today’s software development obscures the fact that software engineering is still primarily a human-based activity and that the success of a software project largely depends on the decisions made by humans during engineering. Rationale management is concerned with making these design and development decisions explicit to all stakeholders involved.

Dutoit, A.H.; McCall, R.; Mistrik, I.; Paech, B. (Eds.)
XXII, 432 p., 92 illus., 2006, XXII, 432 p. 92 illus., Hardcover
ISBN: 3-540-30997-7

The papers on Compendium illustrate a branch of development of IBIS and Dialogue Mapping that extends into the context of project and document support tools and methods. See also the Knowledge Media Institute's page on related papers.

This is a seminal paper in computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) as well as management and policy science. In it Kunz and Rittel give a brief description of Issue Based Information Systems (IBIS), which is the foundation for much of the modern work on Dialogue support and argumentation mapping tools.

Kunz, Werner, & Horst Rittel. 1970. Issues as Elements of Information Systems. Working Paper 131. Berkeley: Institute of Urban & Regional Development, University of California.

Computer Supported Argument Visualization is attracting attention across education, science, public policy and business. More than ever, we need sense-making tools to help negotiate understanding in the face of multi-stakeholder, ill-structured problems. In order to be effective, these tools must support human cognitive and discursive processes, and provide suitable representations, services and user interfaces.

Paul A. Kirschner, Simon J. Buckingham Shum and Chad S. Carr (Eds.)
Springer-Verlag: London
ISBN 1-85233-6641-1

This Naval Postgraduate School master's thesis gives a great detailed description of a real wicked problem, and describes the importance of a collaborative approach to solving it.

Luckey, David S. and Schultz, Kevin P.
Monterey, CA, Naval Postgraduate School, 2001. 108 p.
Doc. call no.: M-U 42525 L941d

Cognitive mapping, as used within Strategic Options Development and Analysis (SODA), and Issue-based Information Systems (IBIS), as used in Dialogue Mapping are two approaches that aim to support
people tackling wicked problems. Though they come from different disciplines, operational research
and computer science, the two approaches have many similarities and some differences. Each has a
supporting methodology, embodies a definite technique, has a suggested process and employs
supporting technology. Both approaches could be employed in OR practice, taken separately or in
combination, and issues relevant to the choice of approach are discussed.

M Westcombe, M Pidd, Adrian Mackenzie, Ian Warren, and Ian Sommerville. Working Paper MS 01/02, The Management School, Lancaster University, Lancaster, England, 2002.

In February 2002, I had the opportunity to use Dialogue Mapping extensively on a large consulting project for TeamSphere Interactive. Despite my lack of experience, I found the technique extremely valuable, and I believe that it significantly influenced the direction and outcome of the project. This paper relates my Dialogue Mapping experience at TeamSphere and the lessons learned along the way.

Eugene Eric Kim

Rumors of the demise of the Waterfall Life-cycle Model are greatly exaggerated. We discovered this and other disappointing indicators about current software engineering practices in a recent survey of almost 200 software professionals. These discoveries raise questions about perception versus reality with respect to the nature of software engineers, software engineering practice, and the industry.

Phillip A. Laplante and Colin J. Neill, Penn State University
February 2004

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