Recently I stumbled upon a thought-provoking piece in The New Yorker that really got me thinking about the different types of problems we face in the world. The excerpt below is a portion from the article that piqued my interest and forced me to ask the question, “what kinds of problems does qualitative research solve?”
Excerpt: “In 1973, two social scientists, Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber, defined a class of problems they called “wicked problems.” Wicked problems are messy, ill-defined, more complex than we fully grasp, and open to multiple interpretations based on one’s point of view. They are problems such as poverty, obesity, where to put a new highway—or how to make sure that people have adequate health care.They are the opposite of “tame problems,” which can be crisply defined, completely understood, and fixed through technical solutions. Tame problems are not necessarily simple—they include putting a man on the moon or devising a cure for diabetes. They are, however, solvable. Solutions to tame problems either work or they don’t.”
At Sivo Insights it isn’t our goal to solve the “wicked” problems like world peace or hunger. It is our job however to help solve the “tame” problems through keen observation and creative techniques. So what does a “tame” problem look like? Perhaps it’s uncovering how shoppers navigate a store shelf? Or maybe it’s evaluating packaging design, identifying the target consumer for a product, or determining the how users navigate your website? The one thing that all of these issues have in common is that they are 100% solvable, tamable problems. It simply works or it doesn’t. Our job as qualitative researchers is to find the solution that does work. From Communication Checks, In-Store Research, Shop-Alongs to Product Concept Testing, we provide real solutions to some of the most complex “tame” problems. As long as you can define the problem we will find the answers.
President & Founding Partner
Click here to read the full article: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/06/something-wicked-this-way-comes.html