Innovation Solves Wicked Problems

wicked problems image of multiple paths

Wicked problems are basically multi-layered, complicated challenges that are immensely difficult to resolve. These problems do not have clear-cut definitions or fixes and may even be described differently by various stakeholders.

However, companies often try to solve wicked problems using traditional tactics. Regrettably, this can lead to disastrous consequences, since solving one aspect of a wicked problem can lead to unexpected negative outcomes in other areas.

Why are Wicked Problems So Challenging?

Wicked problems can’t be solved through a one-size-fits-all strategy. These problems are embedded in social systems and stakeholders often disagree on best strategies to solve the problems. In fact, they may not even agree on the roots of the problems themselves.

Additionally, companies do not have a precedent they can use to address a wicked problem. They need to break away from a traditional approach, reach outside internal limitations, and connect with global disruptive technologies and talent.

Example of a Wicked Problem

A good example of a current wicked problem many companies face today is sustainability. Business realizes it must reduce carbon emissions, but how can their operations become sustainable?

First, sustainability does not have a common definition, due to the diversity and number of stakeholders involved. A company in the USA will not approach climate change strategies the same as one in Australia. Equally, a manufacturing company may not define sustainability it in the same manner as a energy producer. Each has their own governance regime, capacities, mandates, and cultural norms.

Second, since the viewpoints of stakeholders can vary drastically, even within a single location, their solutions vary too. For instance, some stakeholders may be dead set against fossil fuels, while others may be reluctant to alter existing procedures and systems.

Third, even if a company chooses a particular pathway, they can not anticipate the outcome. For instance, a company may choose to gradually move away from fossil fuels. However, climate conscious customers may find this approach too slow, resulting in reputational damage. Alternatively, they may decide to invest heavily in solar or wind, only to discover their shareholders greatly resent the resulting reduction in their profits.

How Can a Business Solve Wicked Problems?

Traditional methods won’t solve wicked problems. They’re too slow and cumbersome. The very nature of wicked problems can lead to endless hours of discussion and analysis. When a solution is implemented, new problems arise since they’re embedded in complex, interconnected systems. Consequently, decision paralysis often ensues.

Nonetheless, the need for change is urgent. Wicked problems can severely impact an organisation and shouldn’t be ignored. Plus, a wicked problem such as sustainability can escalate quickly or evolve. Organisations must be able to test potential solutions quickly. As a result, organisations need a new way to approach wicked problems. This must involve outside talent and unknown technologies.

Fortunately, many innovators have already created or are working on potential solutions. Consequently, business can leverage a broad mix of expertise and increase agility and flexibility through external collaboration.

Build a Strategy to Solve Wicked Problems

Understandably, companies struggle when they try to solve wicked problems. They’re complicated and diverse, and potential solutions can be overwhelming. However, it is possible to overcome these obstacles by creating a strategy in partnership with an experienced, knowledgeable leader.

Fortunately, EarlyBirds offers expertise, Subject Matter Experts, and an expansive marketplace of new and disruptive technologies. We also offer unique programs for ad hoc or supplementary needs, as well as ongoing transformational support.

EarlyBirds Innovation Ecosystem

The EarlyBirds Innovation Ecosystem is a Business-to-Business portal connecting Innovators, Early Adopters, and Subject Matter Experts. Early Adopters are leaders or influencers in an organisation eager to identify new and disruptive technologies. They want to seize opportunities, solve business challenges, or create new products and services.

The Ecosystem has a data pool of over 4 million global innovations that may already address your organization’s challenges. Alternatively, organisations can list their challenges and request solutions from innovators.

EarlyBirds Explorer Program

The Explorer Program is tailored towards those who need innovation as a service to supplement existing innovation programs, or to conduct innovation projects when required.

EarlyBirds Challenger Program

The Challenger Program focuses on a single organisational or technical challenge. It looks for the most relevant innovators that meet your organisational, technical, and risk requirements.

The program is run by an EarlyBirds Subject Matter Expert who identifies your key issues. The SME then searches the data pool to identify and curate options for further evaluation. The most suitable option is chosen and the SME drafts a roadmap of next steps, POC, trial, or implementation.


EarlyBirds helps organisations plot a path towards innovation. Let us help you find direction to tackle your wicked problems. We offer innovative solutions, access to expertise, and a pipeline to global talent.

We’ve helped businesses in many sectors including the Food Industry, Public Sector, Retail, Operations & Maintenance, Manufacturing, Finance & Insurance, Energy, Education, Cybersecurity, and more.

If you’re interested in partnering for success, please register at, or contact us to discuss your needs.