Commonly the issues with which managers deal are reasonably termed problems – situations where the situation that actually pertains is not one that they wish to be sustained. Even an opportunity can be characterised in such a way! The challenge is seen as one requiring the identification and selection of ‘means’ – methods. But the determination of a circumstance as being a ‘problem’ requires the scoping of an alternate potential circumstance – an ‘end’/a goal – and the crafting of a ‘beginning’ – a nexus of assumptions about the current state of affairs that we are prepared to accept/act upon in our choosing of ends and means. This latter ‘crafting of beginnings’ is radically underplayed in the common portrayals of managerial work, and thence in the education of managers.

In choosing our beginnings, means and ends we need to be mindful of the character of the ‘problem space’ we are dealing with. When we think a little more carefully about the forms of problem/issue we confront, it quickly becomes clear that there are an extensive range of goals that could be pursued, a large number of methods that could be deployed in their achievement, and that there is an unnerving uncertainty in our beginnings.

The ‘problem space’ that managers contend with, and that we all inhabit, is what I term ‘Wicked’. It is a space that can be characterised with dimensions that relate to ends, means and beginnings, and by further dimensions of time, connectivity and interdependence. It is a problem space that requires practical wisdom for its navigation. Being mindful of its wickedness is the first step to the appropriate disposition.

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