Wednesday, March 7, 2012

wicked problems and scientific design

What is the role of a social psychologist in solving wicked problems

Further, is she required to elect between the scientific method in which she is trained or the design process for which she has seen more popular reception? I hate to confuse the morass of types of reasoning that already exist (deductive, inductive, abductive...), but could there be a hybrid approach that causes the most disruption-- the most lasting behavior change-- in the context of wicked problems?

I'm fascinated by differences in the scientific method vs. the design process and am doing some research understanding the nuances in each-- the reasoning, process, and possible outcomes.

Intuitively, we perceive that design involves more creativity compared to science's falsifiability; more empathy compared to science's controlled objectivity. Several have more extreme and controversial views on which has more merit and the generalization that science aims to prove, while design, to improve.

Roger Martin argued a few years ago that the scientific mandate to *prove* things stymies innovation. Around the same time, design thinking was heralded for its breakthrough potential, led in part by the critical acclaim of Tim Brown's book. More recently, and ironically I might add, design thinking has been criticized as a "failed experiment" in its mainstream adoption and packaging as a business process, devoid of creativity. Funny enough, some of the original (popular) thinking on the scientific method-- by Einstein-- cites the role of "creative imagination" in science:
"To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science."
- Einstein & Infeld 1938
I point out these select examples only to emphasize this methodological quandary is a complicated issue.

Which do you perceive leads to more disruption? Particularly as wicked problems abound and we have no choice but to move away from reasoning and explanation toward diagnosis and behavior change. Which is more apt?

Back to my research. Let me know if you have thoughts.

Photocredit: Eadweard Muybridge,


Larry Irons said...

Interesting comments Kate. I like the concept of lateral thinking offered by David Bramston.

Rick Murray said...

Hi Kate...

Challenging any convention or norm will create more disruption than playing within its boundaries - real or perceived. By throwing science and design into a blender, you're bound to get some pretty interesting outcomes.

Look forward to seeing you in Austin.

kate said...

Thanks, Larry-- I like the distinction you called out between literal and lateral. Interesting framework.

Rick- was great to see you. And yes- I like the idea of playing with boundaries by any name-- blended reasoning, interdisciplinary collaboration, extra-network communication, disruption, or lateral thinking, as Larry suggests above.

Both - apologies on the delay here. My atom subscription went haywire!