Designing wicked solutions

CPH127 points out a Deloitte survey about the randomness of corporate innovation that essentially says that current management is no more effective than a coin flip at moving winning ideas along. The design blog then uses the information to support an earlier statement: "innovation is not the hard part anymore, and in fact we are in a state of innovation surplus."

The problem of matching winning ideas to business goals, the design blog says, are wicked problems. In contrast to simple and complex problems, wicked problems have no definitive problem statement -- in other words, they are not puzzles -- and require a willingness to experiment. Results are often judged by how well they clarify the poorly understood problem. Unfortunately, most large organizations limit the experimentation and variance necessary to uncover winning solutions because they prefer, understand and can account for the existing problems.

I like what the author of the design blog Niblettes wrote, quoting Marshall McLuhan, in response to the CPH127 blog posting on Deloitte's "randomness of innovation" findings:

In big industry new ideas are invited to rear their heads so they can be clobbered at once. The idea department of a big firm is a sort of lab for isolating dangerous viruses.

But to the experimenter go the spoils. That's where designers can be very useful. Design, unlike management, isn't generally interested in incremental improvements because it's searching for better problems. It's also why I believe that identifying and moving winning ideas along might call for more art and a little less measurement.