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Wicked Intelligence

Podcast host Barton Friedland and Jarno Kartela | Podcast guest Keith Grint
September 08, 2022 | 47 min 10 sec

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Brief summary

Despite living in an age of ever-increasing uncertainty, advancing technology has amplified and improved our ability to make better business decisions. Alongside our take-over hosts, Barton Friedland and Jarno Kartela, special guest, Keith Grint, Professor Emeritus at Warwick University, explores how leaders can address ‘Wicked Problems’ that can seem impossible to solve. If you are a business leader, wanting to improve the way you think about decision-making, this is the podcast for you.

Episode Highlights


  • The idea of wicked and tame problems was introduced in our era by Rittel and Webber in 1973, where they argued that wicked and tame problems need to be solved differently. There is a third type of problem, the critical problem or crisis, which is neither wicked nor tame. 


  • The digital economy has made some people assume that the amount of data available for computing power means that we can actually sort out decision-making much easier/ faster.  That's confusing separate things: one is the amount of data and the other one is how you make a decision about what you're going to do with the data.


  • You tend to get appointed and promoted on the basis of your technical skill for addressing tame problems but as you move up the organizational hierarchy, what you tend to face are problems and issues that you've never faced before and these would be wicked problems that we either don't know yet or don't know ever how to fix them. 


  • The third category of problems are critical problems. These are cases where you need to coerce people. A lot of leaders end up becoming quite authoritarian and taking over the command role on a permanent basis.


  • People become quite addicted to particular kinds of decision styles. Some people like acting as commanders. Some people assume everything we face is a tame problem so they have an engineering, expertise-led approach. Then some people just don't like making decisions individually. They like to collaborate on all possible points, much more than the egalitarian line. 


  • A lot of people believe that given data plus AI, you can solve virtually any problem because it will eventually just solve itself, just throwing more data on it. But past data never tells us what's going to happen next.


  • The future of data and AI-backed decision-making will be a form of interaction and simulation and active learning, as opposed to, "Let's bring datasets to future engineer the world."


  • When people come together to make strategic choices, scenarios, and so on, they will be wearing different hats. It is a long exercise to getting from all of those different viewpoints to something that's concise and solid. The idea of a ‘campfire’ is, can we somehow model all of the assumptions and ideas and thoughts we have about the world and our own business in it so that we could simulate how it actually works?


  • We have to find a way to codify what we think and believe and see and combine that with the data points that we know so that we can somehow see the big picture. Once we do, then it will again be humans who are making the decision.


    You can find the link to Keith's paper, referenced in this episode here.

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