Four Different Ways to View Wicked Problems

Anneli Hujala, Sanna Laulainen, Andy Brookes, Maarit Lammassaari, Tamara Mulherin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter addresses four non-positivist approaches: critical realism, social constructionism, pragmatism, and phenomenology. It offers a broad sketch of each paradigm, followed by an analysis of its key contributions and weaknesses with examples drawn from research on collaboration in health and social care. The chapter highlights the potential of meta-theoretical reflection when studying wicked problems in health and social care. It also addresses cross-boundary collaboration, i.e. the difficulties of enacting collaborative working. While collaboration is often offered as a solution to wicked problems, its complex nature renders problematic fitting it to the Horst W. J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber definition of a wicked problem. The chapter suggests that many contemporary approaches to wicked problems are grounded in the basic assumptions of critical realism, reasoning that complex problems are generated from 'outside,' 'above' or 'beneath.' From a social constructionist point of view, there is no single truth about the wicked problem addressed the difficulties in cross-boundary collaboration.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Management of Wicked Problems in Health and Social Care
EditorsWill Thomas, Anneli Hujala, Sanna Laulainen, Robert McMurray
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781315102597
ISBN (Print)9781318103627
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Health Management

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