Wicked & Wise: How to solve the world's toughest problems
a book by Alan Watkins
(our site's book review)
A groundbreaking new series explores hotly debated issues and offers some intelligent, challenging, and wise ways forward that may be able to break through the current intractable position—the first is coauthored by the author of A Brief History of Everything. Each book in this series is coauthored by leading leadership consultant Alan Watkins and a hand-picked expert in the relevant subject field—in this case, one of the most widely read and influential American philosophers of our time. This first entry looks at some of the most pressing and topical issues affecting the world today, from the clash of religions and cultures in a globalized world to the growing dominance of technology. The book sets the scene for debating the key challenges facing current and future generations, and sets possible agendas for how leaders, and potential leaders, can solve challenges through the wise application of multi-tiered, multi-channel, multi-organizational intervention, and can be empowered to lead in a highly developed, enlightened, and selfless way.
In Wicked & Wise: How to Solve the World’s Toughest Problems, Watkins suggests there are six key properties that must be understood before real progress can be made:
- A wicked problem is multi-dimensional
- A wicked problem has multiple stakeholders
- A wicked problem has multiple causes
- A wicked problem has multiple symptoms
- A wicked problem has multiple solutions
- A wicked problem is constantly evolving
"The solution has to be complicated because the problem is complicated. There are no quick fix, simple solutions for complex issues such as climate change, poverty, education, governance, equality, terrorism, etc. These are wicked problems that can’t even be explained easily, never mind solved easily. All too often we seem more interested in the sound bites about a problem, the headlines or the Tweet-able facts, than actually really unpacking the problem and getting to grips with it properly."
To those who would charge Watkins with overthinking it or over-intellectualizing it, he would note the vast complexity inherent in the problem, the chaos and confusion experienced by those attempting to confront the issue, and the fact that no one seemed to be making much headway using the same old strategies that have continued to prove either insufficient or ineffective over the years, and obviously a new and better approach was indicated. Such as implementing Integral Coherence. It's a book not for the faint of heart. Perhaps totally describing, outlining, organizing all the perspectives and approaches and stakeholders of a problem is half way to solving it. Perhaps. Yet, is there convincing evidence to suggest that we are making great headway on any of these wicked problems? Have we outlined wise solutions only to notice no one was paying attention? Read the book and decide for yourself.
"Integral Coherence defines a wise way forward that allows us to feel our way through the problem in a thorough and systematic way so we can discover new emergent ‘better’ solutions as we go. Of course implementing Integral Coherence requires complex judgement, high levels of intelligence and maturity so as to dynamically steer the evolving solution to the evolving problem and manage the issue in real time."
"These wicked problems can be solved—and we need to start solving them and keep solving them today (and tomorrow and a hundred years from now)." (Source: Some problems are ‘well wicked’ … what can we do?, complete coherence)
The authors use climate change as an example of a wicked problem, which they define as a situation with multiple dimensions, multiple stakeholders, multiple causes and symptoms, and which is evolving. Using the integral map they explicate its component parts and provide solutions, which is where the “wise” part of the title comes from. “Integral coherence”, or applying the integral map in a coherent fashion, is the essence of the solution. An integrative reading of climate change acknowledges that people see climate change in different ways at each stage of their existence, so perhaps a solution for today no longer seems like a solution tomorrow. The multiple dimensions, multiple stakeholders, multiple causes and symptoms seem like an overwhelming quantity of balls for integrative jugglers to keep in the air. After they use the integral map and explicate its component parts and provide solutions, will the stakeholders begin implementation, procrastinate, argue with the solution creators, or simply make excuses for why they cannot act?
Proof of climate change
"Instead of fighting amongst each other in defence of one’s precious insights, it is time to join with others to discover the knowledge in various accounts of information, and the wisdom in differentiating and integrating various accounts of who is seeing, how and why seeing is being done, and what is seen. Then we can work together to create context sensitive bio-psycho-socio-cultural responses to our interwoven local, national and global problems. . . using integrative dynamics is a more comprehensive way of working with our multiple interconnected challenges in our various local, national and global living conditions than many current polarising ways." (Source: An Integrative Vision: Worldcentric Guardians Using Integrative Dynamics in Our Current Crises, Gerard Bruitzman, Integral Leadership Review)
Many of today’s hot topics—climate change, race, immigration—are what analysts call “wicked” problems. They’re especially hard to solve because of competing underlying values.
Colorado State professor Martin Carcasson explains that most problem-solving models focus either on expertise or on activism. But wicked problems are inherently different. They don’t respond to expert, technical solutions, or to deal-making. They respond to slow, trusting, face-to-face communication.
A real cure is to sit down with someone who voted differently from you, and ask them whether they have their snow tires on yet. How are their kids? Just remember what it's like to be human with them.
Later, once you’ve rebuilt trust, you can listen to them about issues. Take a breath. And try to discover the concerns beneath their stances. The interests beneath their positions." (Source: Polarization Hangover, Susan Clark, Slow Democracy)
We've got the world in our hands—will we accept the responsibility?
It takes a lot of concentration and determination to be an active listener. Old habits are hard to break, and if your listening skills are as bad as many people's are, then there's a lot of habit-breaking to do. Be deliberate with your listening and remind yourself frequently that your goal is to truly hear what the other person is saying. Set aside all other thoughts and behaviors and concentrate on the message. Ask questions, reflect, and paraphrase to ensure you understand the message.
Normal, catch-as-catch-can, average "parenting" is easy. Most people seem to do it by doing whatever they feel like doing regardless of results. We see this type of parenting in grocery stores, or in friends' homes. It involves parent and child pushing each other's buttons, being run by their hangups, hollering at each other, everyone talking past each other, and eventually a parent's anger causes him or her to lay down the law and apply punishments or at least consequences of some type. The relationships are often uneasy or unhappy. All of this produces kids that are nervous, disrespectful, often uncooperative, angry and sullen. It involves little if any knowledge, so it boils down to making the same mistakes with one's kids that one's parents made with you. All this type of parenting represents is everyone being deterministically run by hangups and at no time acquiring any knowledge about what good parenting involves. One could call this disrespectful parenting, since the parent has not demonstrated enough respect for the kids to even find out how to parent correctly.
Good parenting, as opposed to normal catch-as-catch-can parenting, on the other hand, is not easy. It is a complex challenge requiring knowledge and patience and compassion. The wise parent learns that good parenting will require some type of authoritative parenting method, such as Parent Effectiveness Training. Most of the best authoritative parenting methods use some version of active listening. And there are ways to supercharge relationships, too.
"Active Listening is a complete communication process involving:
a. Parent attentively both listening to and observing the child’s verbal messages.
b. Parent forming a careful, tentative impression of what the child is experiencing.
c. Parent empathically feeding back (both verbally and non-verbally) this impression.
d. The child then begins the next communication cycle, usually by confirming or clarifying the parent’s feedback.
Active Listening works because it helps the child discharge strong feelings and think through a problem to get some kind of resolution.
• Active Listening helps the child move from “outside self” to “inner self.”
• Active Listening keeps the parent from imposing a solution which would deny the child the opportunity to grow.
• Active Listening helps the child understand and deal with his/her own feelings.
• Active Listening promotes a more intimate and warm relationship.
• Active Listening enables the child to hear out loud (and then acknowledge) his/her own thoughts and ideas.
• Active Listening helps the child become an independent problem-solver, less dependent on others for solutions, more self-responsible, more self-directing.
So as you can see, Active Listening does a lot of incredible things! It can be a challenge to master this skill, much less become decent at it—but the payoff: Immeasureable." Note: Dr. Carl Rogers created the active listening process and named it “Reflective Listening” and it later got named active listening and Dr. Thomas Gordon—creator of P.E.T.—used it as an essential element of P.E.T. (Source: Everything You Need to Know About Active Listening, Georgina Watson, Gordon Training International)
A real expert and phony expert are on a talk show as pundits. The phony is the loudest and he's quick to spew lies. The real expert is thoughtful and most polite. The viewers believe the phony who shrieks FAKE NEWS at his opponent.
A great—and greatly frustrating—"wicked" issue is the climate change issue. Discussions about it are crippled by interference from think tanks and PACs and corporatocracy greed and misinformation from phony "experts" and Big Oil and political sell-outs. These entities create polarization everywhere so that solutions will always be impossible and corporatocracy profits will never falter. Let's look at the think tank that champions climate science denial: AEI.
Big Oil muddles and bamboozles the climate change issue, feeding fake news and misinformation to the media and talk shows
The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is an influential right-wing think tank that advocates for lower taxes, fewer protections for consumers and the environment, and cuts to the social safety net. AEI is the dominant conservative think tank—it's a breeding ground for neocons that are happy to have OTHER PEOPLE dying for their empire building wet dreams. AEI was noted for providing the George W. Bush administration with the neocon-minded hawkish officials and advisers who promoted the administration’s phony "war on terror" policies, including John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and John Yoo. It is deeply connected to the infamous Koch brothers, to American empire building ideas, the tobacco industry's misinformation war, the climate change deniers and it actively promotes ugly Middle Eastern military entanglements for both the US and its allies. (Source: American Enterprise Institute)
Soldiers are not people to the neocon hawks—they are nothing but cannon fodder
Note that these folks are anti-truth and anti-people, folks who dislike democracy because it keeps trying to make them responsible for their actions. The tobacco industry's misinformation war hurts, sickens, and kills our citizens. The American empire building ideas kill or maim thousands of our soldiers and countless citizens of other countries.
AEI pushes for lower taxes for the wealthy that plunge the U.S. deeper into debt and cuts to the social safety net that would push millions of middle class citizens into the lower class and millions of our poorer citizens onto the streets—destitute and needing to rely on crime or begging just to survive. But none of these things matter to AEI members, since they are safe in the upper class. They have no idea what compassion is—they do not relate to others' pain—only to their own profits and wealth. AEI is the voice of the Corporatocracy. It cares only about more profits for Big Armaments, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, and Big Empire (wherein attacking other countries lets the U.S. corporatocracy get more control of oil, minerals, and illegal drugs). If you want to see AEI's playbook, see Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power.
The tobacco industry's misinformation war hurts, sickens, and kills our citizens
The doomsday clock is currently set at 3 minutes to midnight
Unless American citizens start defecating money, the debt has put us all in deep doo-doo
Are all of the intelligent, wealthy people associated with AEI actual climate change deniers? Of course not. Many of them know our huge carbon footprint is not just wrecking the weather and environment but also helping to doom dozens of coastal cities, wrecking crops, increasing droughts, etc. But they happily line up with Republicans denying that climate scientists know what they're talking about anyway. This gets them or their candidates reelected due to huge campaign contributions from Big Oil and associated industries—which explains why they HAPPILY sell out humanity out of greed.
Candidates happily line up with Republicans denying that climate scientists know what they're talking about—they don't believe it but it gets Big Oil to shell out huge campaign contributions
Watkins, using the integral map, explicates its component parts and provides solutions. But what if the corporatocracy think tanks like AEI, the President (Trump), the Republicans, Fox News, the climate change deniers, and the pseudo-scientists pretending that human activities are irrelevant, what if all these folks have no interest in real science, wisdom, or solutions? What if greed dictates they'll never hear a word the real scientists say, even if they pretend to listen? Doesn't that mean that the solutions are political and psychogical/spiritual and that Watkins and his maps might as well sit in the corner and pound sand up his backside?
President Trump, the hero that rode in on a white horse to give climate change deniers more credibility
No, but his goal of meeting complex challenges through the wise application of multi-tiered multi-channel, multi-organizational intervention which lead in a highly developed, enlightened, and selfless way, assumes that everyone is looking for a solution. Since AEI's goals are profit maximization and not dealing with the climate change issue in any kind of way, much less in highly developed, enlightened, and selfless ways, the only "solution" they'll hear is about profit maximization.
And since AEI has demonstrated consistantly that it values corporatocracy profits over human welfare, it kind of makes solving the climate change problem a nonstarter. Huge boycotts and shaming campaigns toward Republican sell-outs and rightwing think tanks like AEI are possible strategies that could be viable if, and only if, said campaigns would start seriously impacting corporatocracy bottom lines and impacting political campaigns of G.O.P. candidates who were known to be deniers who were choosing profits over human welfare.
But if the ludicrous political farce known as the 2016 presidential election is any example, the public was so distracted with fake news, email server hell, Trump's alleged sexual assaults on women, and Russia's alleged interference, they didn't pay any attention to the fact that the G.O.P. plank was corrupt through and through. Killing abortion rights, killing the environment, killing the climate, killing the separation of church and state. And yet Trump is who was elected. It was as if the country had gone mad, insane, bonkers! United States is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement—why is there no outcry?! There is—everywhere but in the USA!
In the 2016 presidential election, the public was so distracted with fake news it elected Trump on an extremely regressive platform
Not only was there no shaming or profit loss, the public instead foolishly concentrated on the cheap thrills of fake news like PizzaGate, Trump's Tape Scandal where he bragged of unwanted genital grabbing, who is the most evil sexual predator of all, and Trump insisting he would stand up for the little guy and Make America Great again. As always happens after elections, Trump went through the motions of being for the little guy for 37 minutes and 26 seconds, and then he pushed tax cuts that would screw everyone but the rich and the corporations, both of whom made out like bandits—big surprise. The "fixing" of ObamaDon'tCare turned out to be a plan to screw the little guy once again. Many (23 million people) would lose coverage, plans will cover less and have higher out-of-pocket expenses, older people would have to pay more, the safety net would get more holes in it, Planned Parenthood would get defunded completely so low-income women would be totally screwed, Medicaid would be barred from providing funding for any health clinics that provide abortions, and the taxes the wealthy and the insurance companies were paying to subsidize insurance would cease—yet another huge tax break for the rich!
Make America Great Again has morphed into Make American Oligarchs Even Richer Again. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE?!!!
Trump pushed tax cuts that would screw everyone but the rich (like him) and the corporations—big surprise
Make America Great Again has morphed into make American Oligarchs Even Richer Again. WHERE IS THE ANGER?!!!
Alan Watkins says "Individuals also play a role in exerting pressure on politicians [like Republican market worshippers] and businesses to push through change. . . . As more particularly destructive 'facts' come to light, then more individuals will be moved to begin to take various sorts of environmental action. Making accurate information available and ensuring the source of that information is trusted is critical here." So he sees the potentials of individuals, pressure groups, shaming, and boycotts to help solve wicked problems.
It is humiliating to think we live in a country where so many poor and middle class citizens would be so completely duped into voting AGAINST THEIR OWN INTERESTS so dramatically, so blindly, and so stupidly! Seeing Trump sell them out totally, one has to ask oneself: where is the outrage, the cries for impeachment, the marches on Washington, the resistance, the moaning and wailing and screeching and crying? Nowhere. The brainwashed Republican voters are being distracted with James Comey hearings, RussiaGate, fake news, Black Lives Matter arguments, travel bans for Muslims, London attacks, North Korean act-outs, etc.
"For 40+ years the Club of Rome has worked to change current economic systems. Their 2016 report A Finer Future is Possible asks a vital question:
Climate change, rising inequality and environmental impact show how urgently we need a more sustainable model of social and economic development. But is it actually possible to change the economic system without collapse?
The underlying assumption is that the dominant global economic system, focused on continuous economic growth, unlimited levels of consumption, and minimal regulation needs to change. But change is hard.
Humanity is on an economic treadmill, which is moving human society towards an eventual collapse
Humanity is on an economic treadmill, which requires ever-rising throughput of resources, and which is creating environmental destruction while also widening social divisions. In short, the current economic system is moving human society towards an eventual collapse." (Lovins, Wijkman, Fullerton, Wallis & Maxton, 2016, 5-6) "We say that using integrative dynamics is a more comprehensive way of working with our multiple interconnected challenges in our various local, national and global living conditions than many current polarising ways. . . . We hope that in putting into practice integrative dynamics many people will become competent worldcentric guardians with the capabilities to put into action wiser and more compassionate ways of serving the thriveability of all living beings with their inter-relating stages of development within each being and across all beings on our planet. (Source: For fans of Ken Wilbur and stages of development, Gerard Bruitzman, RapidShift).
"Wicked & Wise: How to solve the world's toughest problems provides the basis of a more comprehensive solution to any problem, from the simplest to the most complex, and will prove an essential inspiration for anyone who wants to tackle life in a more positive, proactive and empathetic way."—David Forrest
Reality can be understood as the play of interacting PERSPECTIVES. With integrative dynamics we deal not just with systems or systems of systems but systems of systems of systems.
A holistic view of health and healing means that we are interested in engaging and developing the whole person. You can think of this as different levels, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. It's the concept that the human being is multi-dimensional. We have conscious and unconscious aspects, rational and irrational aspects. A holistic viewpoint assumes systems of systems of systems, which is obvious when you cogitate on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual systems. Not only are they systems interacting with other systems, but each of these macrosystems interacts with many lower level systems. So body systems such as muscles depend on the nervous system to function—they get commands from the brain, etc.
Reductionism is trying to determine why gait and locomotion are malfunctioning by merely studying leg muscles. A nerve could be pinched by a herniated spinal disc. The poorly functioning muscle turns out to be because the nervous system is compromised. There are many other possibilities about malfunctioning locomotion which include psychological or skeletal systems or even improper blood flow to the muscles because of blocked arteries in the circulatory system. Doctors try to be holistic—considering the body as a whole and all of its systems—but their 15-minute checkups and large patient loads force them into reductionistic modes at times (which makes them feel like assembly-line robots at times), so one walks out with a prescription for pain pills in one's hand since when you say "it hurts when I move like THIS" no one wants to hear: "Well, don't move like THIS." At least the pain pills make the patient feel better—or less.
Their 15-minute checkups and large patient loads force doctors into reductionistic modes sometimes, which makes them feel like assembly-line robots at times
A doctor needs to take many perspectives and the way these perspectives interact lead to diagnoses. Holistic therapy goes beyond "medical" perspectives and considers the whole person in trying to understand and treat the physical complaint. Like integrative dynamics, holism offers a more comprehensive solution to any problem—a systems of systems of systems solution, if you will. Breaking this down, we see how it works with a climate change example:
Multi-Dimensionality of Climate Change
The ‘I’ Dimension
The ‘We’ Dimension
The ‘It’ Dimension
Multiple Stakeholders of Climate Change
Planetary Sensitivity by Stakeholder Group
Multiple Causes of Climate Change
Multiple Symptoms of Climate Change
Extreme Weather Events
Rising Sea Level, Ocean Warming and Acidification
Shrinking Ice Sheets and Decreased Snow Cover
Multiple Solutions for Climate Change
New Energy Technologies and Innovations
Reduce the Population
Change Human Behaviour
Increase Corporate Responsibility
Legislation and Evolved Ethics
Climate Change is Constantly Evolving
"We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them." - Albert Einstein
Alan Watkins, through his company Complete Coherence, continues to work with CEOs around the world, helping to develop more enlightened leaders in business, sports, education, and politics by coherently implementing various aspects of Integral Meta Theory. His book, Wicked & Wise: How to solve the world's toughest problems, is a foundational primer, first in a series on taking on "wicked problems"—like poverty. The book is mostly about climate change. It includes lots of introductory materials and lots of ideas of "Integral" principles, frames, data and methods. It's a practical guide. Wilber and Watkins give us a new framework to understand dialogue, politics, society, evolution, and how to invite all perspectives to the solution. It is a holistic viewpoint. It leads us away from the mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm and toward the ecological-holistic paradigm.
Wilber and Watkins give us a new type of holistic framework to understand dialogue, politics, society, evolution, and how to invite all perspectives to the solution
As Fritjof Capra and David Korten see it, in an appeal for the adoption of the kinder, gentler ecological-holistic paradigm, we need to question the type of “progress” we should seek as a world—should it be economic, materialistic, often ignoring human social needs, or should we begin to act on the knowledge that we already have positively established as true: that all life is inextricably connected. This systems view would lead us towards social and ecological balance. Sustainability is then possible. The current slash-and-burn predatory capitalism in which environment and social issues are not even factored in is global suicide. (Source: The Post-Corporate World, David Korten)
See The Post-Corporate World, The Web of Life, The Politics of the Solar Age: Alternatives to Economics, and Creating Alternative Futures: The End of Economics.
Fritjof Capra sees current civilization as having become disconnected from the web of life—ecologically and environmentally, and it shows
If we fail to protect our water and air, we will eventually end up drinking the pollution we dumped into our precious waterways
Capra says: “To regain our full humanity, we have to regain our experience of connectedness with the entire web of life. This reconnecting . . . is the very essence of the spiritual grounding of deep ecology. . . . Reconnecting with the web of life means building and nurturing sustainable communities in which we can satisfy our needs and aspirations without diminishing the chances of future generations."
Deep ecology is an ecological and environmental philosophy promoting the inherent worth of living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs, plus a radical restructuring of modern human societies in accordance with such ideas. Deep ecology argues that the natural world is a subtle balance of complex inter-relationships in which the existence of organisms is dependent on the existence of others within ecosystems. Human interference with or destruction of the natural world poses a threat therefore not only to humans but to all organisms constituting the natural order.
Deep ecology's core principle is the belief that the living environment as a whole should be respected and this tropical forest is a great example of what to protect
“Under the surface, even such seemingly unconnected problems as ethnic violence, pollution of the air and water, broken families, and cultural disintegration are closely interlinked. Understanding that the problems are interrelated can make them seem overwhelming, but finding the points at which they converge can, in fact, make our attempts to tackle them a great deal more effective. It is then just a question of pulling the right threads to affect the entire fabric, rather than having to deal with each problem individually.” (This is a wonderful description of the MC philosophy underlying the MC vision guiding the MC movement.) (Source: Lessons From Traditional Cultures, an article in The Futurist by Helena Norberg-Hodge)
It is then just a question of pulling the right threads to affect the entire fabric, rather than having to deal with each problem individually
Capitalism is an engine of wealth creation for the wealthy, but for the average citizen, it's an engine of wealth reduction—it's a wolf in sheep's clothing
Many scientists and theorists and philosophers such as the Tofflers, Capra, Korten, Wilber and Watkins lead us away from the mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm and toward the ecological-holistic paradigm. The former, which guided the 20th century to exploit, pollute, poison, murder, and warmonger, has its uses but guiding human survival is certainly not one of those. To survive, the planet and its animals and its plants and its people need to guide human survival with the ecological-holistic paradigm.
One could say that the main difference between the ecological-holistic paradigm and integrative dynamics is that with the latter one more comprehensively organizes and charts and details the issues and perspectives and players, which can lead to superior results. The very best scientists and doctors and healers can do most or all of these things automatically without having to consciously break it all down. Most others do merely a fair job of that or resort to the mechanistic-reductionistic paradigm to address complex issues partially. Watkins makes his case, in this book, that integrative dynamics is the best approach to address "wicked" problems with "wisdom."
Like the Predator Drone fliers that create a lot of 'collateral damage' deaths, AEI people's ideas accept polluting and poisoning and starvation and sickness as the 'price of doing business'
And then there are the people (mostly neocon warmongers or AEI members—or both) causing the world so much grief, the ones who don't even consider the polluting and poisoning and exploiting and species loss and endangered weather and food supply and water supply and starvation and diseases and sickness to be problems at all. To them it is the price of doing business.
Like the Predator Drone fliers that shoot Hellfire missiles at cars or houses that "may" or "probably" contain terrorists or at least suspects. They get a lot of collateral damage, which is a monumentally dehumanizing way of talking about all the murdered and maimed and traumatized human beings that just had their lives ended or ruined forever. Obama thought it was funny to talk about how great a killer he was, and Trump probably just applies his The Apprentice mantra, "it's not personal—it's just business," while Dubya, when he was running drone murders, probably had no thoughts about it at all—or about anything else.
Far from being "competent worldcentric guardians" (the ideal for Integral Coherence lovers), most corporatocracy leaders and politicians are tone-deaf to anything that involves the type of cooperation that would diminish their wealth or power even slightly. When greed is the only real value of the movers and shakers, how does one get them interested in guarding anything but their own money bins—world be damned?
When greed is the only real value of the movers and shakers, how does one get them interested in guarding anything but their own money bins, world be damned?