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AIC Seminar Series

Swamp Charting: An Approach to 'Wicked Problems'

Jeffrey ConklinCogNexus Institute

Date:  Thursday, February 24th 2005 at 11:00am

Location:  EJ228  (Directions)


Traditional approaches to problem solving and design have assumed that the problem was well defined and the problem definition was stable. Cognitive studies have shown that, when faced with a complex and novel problem, humans use a fundamentally chaotic process (“opportunity driven”) to organize information and solve the problem. This insight helps clarify the situation when a problem is “wicked”: proposed solutions primarily serve to illuminate hidden aspects of the problem, there are many stakeholders, “immutable” constraints change, and there is no definitive solution. Seen in this light, technical projects succeed or fail on the group’s ability to overcome communication problems and to make sense of a dizzying array of conflicting points of view and inconsistent “facts.” This talk explores the emerging skills, mindset, and tools required by wicked problems, including the Dialog Mapping facilitation approach and Compendium software.

   Bio for Jeffrey Conklin

Dr. Jeffrey Conklin, Director of CogNexus Institute, has over two decades of experience and an international reputation in the fields of hypertext and collaborative technology research, and years of professional experience as a facilitator, consultant, and teacher. Dr. Conklin is perhaps best known for his work with the Issue Based Information System (IBIS) method and extensions of it, such as research tools ("gIBIS") and commercial products ("CM/1™", "QuestMap™") that support IBIS. Dr. Conklin also developed the Dialog Mapping facilitation technique, a "Value Now, Value Later" approach to knowledge management which allows groups to capture and make sense of unstructured knowledge during project meetings. Dr. Conklin has taught Dialog Mapping to hundreds of people all over the world. He has facilitated thousands of meetings, with such clients as the World Bank, the United Nations, the US House of Representatives, the City of Washington DC, NASA, FAA, the General Services Administration (GSA), as well as Southern California Edison, AOL, Verizon, AOPA, Doug Engelbart’s Bootstrap Alliance, and other high-tech organizations. Dr. Conklin’s research on collaborative and facilitation technologies has been published in numerous academic journals and conferences. He is completing a book about his work, Swamp Charting: Creating Shared Understanding for Wicked Problems.

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