In the past 12 months, our attention has been drawn to many problematic aspects of society. The soft spots in our societies have been exposed as the pandemic stress tested our models. The problems that have arisen are going to impact the future of humanity if we ignore them.
Mika discussed how the social media advertising model promotes segmentation of the consumer base in his last blog. An unintended consequence of this is that segmentation is more apparent in society. If we allow this to continue, the rifts become deeper and the hostility we experience online spills over into everyday society. We’re actually already seeing this taking place – recent protests have made the news world-wide when peaceful demonstrations for a cause spill over into violence. Somehow social media has given us license to be angry, unyielding, and worse, violently hostile towards anyone that has a different point of view from our own. The future of humanity, left unchecked, becomes the stuff of nightmares.
Introducing wicked problems
The deep divide in society is a wicked problem to solve, and what I mean by that is a social or cultural problem that’s difficult to fix (Interaction Design has a great bank of content all about wicked problems). This could be for a number of reasons, incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the financial or economic burden of solving the problem, or even the interconnected nature of this problem with others (think Homer-Dixon’s ingenuity gap that I discuss in my blog about where perspectives come from!).
In fact, the issue of polarization in society is just one of many wicked problems that have arisen over the years. We think about the climate change debate, how to promote equality, or access to education. These are all examples of wicked problems that have existed for sometime, but have been brought into sharp focus in recent years and months. And it’s hard to even know where to begin solving them, but at the same time the consequences of leaving them unaddressed are untenable – the future of humanity depends on us being able to solve these problems.
How to solve humanity’s biggest problems
Design theorist Richard Buchanan was the first to connect design thinking to tackling wicked problems in his 1992 paper. The theory has since developed to suggest that systems thinking, how components of a system influence each other as well as other systems, combined with agile methodology, a collaborative and iterative approach to design and development, can inspire the innovation needed to solve wicked problems.
Simply put, the innovation needed to tackle wicked problems comes from understanding the big picture as well as the detail and context, while working together for continuous improvement. No big deal then.
When I think of the problem of polarization, I often wonder what it’ll take for people to accept other points of view. Perhaps if instead of dividing, platforms worked on creating an inclusive and collaborative environment, different perspectives can be brought together for better understanding of the overall issue. And once we understand the overall issue, we can work together to apply context and meaning. Sound familiar? In the true fashion of interconnected wicked problems, perhaps a solution to one problem, can also help to solve many others.
This is what we’re doing at Hunome. We’ve created a platform that can help address some of the biggest and smallest problems that face the future of humanity, designed for collective sense-making and building better understanding for self or with others. To see where your wicked problems fit in, sign up for Hunome.