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Wicked Problem

Essay by   •  March 28, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  724 Words (3 Pages)  •  2,127 Views

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Consumption as a Wicked Problem

A wicked problem is problem that is continually changing, resulting in an unsolvable problem. Due to the wicked problem's changing nature, a single solution cannot be used to solve it. However, with each time the problem changes the solution can be updated accordingly, to temporarily reduce the impact of that problem. This concept is highlighted in the quote, ''wicked' problems can't be solved, but they can be tamed' (John C. Camillus 2008). An example of a wicked problem could be consumption since it can be defined as, 'the act or process of consuming' (Oxford University 2001). Hence, a wicked problem since the act of consuming possesses the characteristic of continually changing.

As a result of the definition for consumption, it can be viewed as a wicked problem since, what society consumes will always be changing due to the humans limitless needs and wants which are in constant state of evolution. This is highlighted in the fact that when human numbers grew by a factor of 2.2 between 1960 and 2006, the consumption expenditure per person still tripled. Therefore, the same solution will not be able to tame all consumption problems since it is always changing. Hence, consumption can be considered a wicked problem since it adheres to the characteristics of a wicked problem, in that it is continually changing and solutions must always be updated to tame the current problem at hand.

Consequently, due to consumption being a wicked problem it will inevitably affect businesses in many ways due to its varied nature of problems. This could lead to consumption creating certain central tensions that businesses would have to tame during its operations. A predominate tension could be sustainability problems and that negligence towards this matter can cost a business its reputation. Sustainability reflects the concept of providing goods and services to the present society while maintaining positive effects on resources for the future generations. Therefore sustainability problems are created through the levels of consumption and how a business deals with it. That is, with low levels of consumption, businesses will have plenty of resources available. However, with high levels of consumption it will result in businesses experiencing insufficient resources due to excessive demands. It is at this point that business may act unethically and engage in unsustainable practices. Therefore, businesses who can temporarily tame the sustainability problem related to high levels of consumption in the current era will be more profitable than businesses who neglect it. Since, consumption has grown dramatically over the past five decades, up 28% from the $23.9 trillion spent in 1996 and up sixfold form the $4.9 trillion spent in 1960. An example of a business that has shown its interest in taming the sustainability problem would be Nokia, a mobile device manufacturer who has implemented sustainability measures into their production line. That is, Nokia has shown its



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