My new focus: evil

Earlier this week my nephew and I were discussing what I should take on next. He recommended that I consider devoting myself to evil – he thought I might find it fun and rewarding.

Well, it turns out he may have been right. I really am attracted to what are known as wicked problems. Here’s how NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen characterizes them:

It is hard to say what the problem is, to define it clearly or to tell where it stops and starts. There is no “right” way to view the problem, no definitive formulation. There are many stakeholders, all with their own frames, which they tend to see as exclusively correct. Ask what the problem is and you will get a different answer from each. Someone can always say that the problem is just a symptom of another problem and that someone will not be wrong. The problem is inter-connected to a lot of other problems; pulling them apart is almost impossible. In a word: it’s a mess.

Examples of wicked problems include poverty, global warming, education … you get the idea. I suspect part of what has been interesting to me about enterprise datacenter management is that it is like a model of a wicked problem – I don’t think it’s nearly as hard as true wicked problems, but it shares some key characteristics.

I think my post on what I’m thinking about makes more sense from this point of view. I’m not sure just where the stuff there is leading me, but I think it’s reflective of the fact that the problems I’m most interested in don’t fall neatly into any single category and that I’m at least as interested in how we approach the problem and learn from the process as I am in the solution itself. The items listed there are almost like pieces of a solution to a bigger puzzle. Hopefully I don’t actually have to figure out all of the pieces myself since I think that bigger puzzle may just be enough to keep me busy.

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