Sometimes your situation is simply a mess; a tangled hairball of complexity and confusion.

Tame problems are solvable. It may not be easy or simple, but a tame problem will “lie still” while you work on it. For example, a problem in a mechanical device, like a car. You can solve it by breaking it down into its constituent parts and analyzing the system.

Wicked problems are complex, fluid, and adaptive. The problem is slippery and hard to define because it’s in constant flux, and attempts to solve it can shift the problem, change it, or even make it worse. For example, a problem involving war, refugees, multiple cultures and political borders. A wicked problem can’t be solved, but it can be improved by making small, adaptive moves and learning as you go.

A mess is a convoluted cluster of interconnected and interwoven problems, a problem system made up of problem systems. A mess is like a complex math equation. Before you can attempt to address it, you must make it more legible, by finding ways to unravel it and resolve its complexities.

Are you in the middle of a mess? A tangled hairball of complexity? How might you begin to untangle it and make it legible enough to think about a next step?

See also: Mind map, Causal loops, Concept map, Fog, Maze.


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