Wicked Questions

Creating guiding questions helps to map and understand your challenge.

Defining Wicked Questions

Asking wicked questions is an exercise that helps to engage people to reveal entangled challenges and possibilities that are not intuitively obvious. They help us to identify inherent paradoxes and frame the challenge which supports subsequent efforts to map and understand the challenge.

A good wicked question:

  • Helps us to name the central tensions and the paradoxes (the elephant in the room)

  • Surfaces underlying, often contradictory assumptions

  • Does not have obvious answers

  • Opens up more questions, options, inquiries

  • Is NOT a trick question, or rhetorical; not blaming or finger pointing.

Asking Wicked Questions

Examples of Wicked Questions:

  • Why is the youth unemployment rate in Canada so high, while employers cannot find talent?

  • How do energy utilities expect to thrive when they do not innovate?

  • If consumer demand is high for local, organic fruit, why are retailers not selling it?

  • If better, smarter and cheaper treatments are available, why are hospitals not buying them?

  • If all the members in your community say they want to solve the problem, why is it that nobody has the time or resources to work on it?

A Useful Format for Asking Wicked Questions:

  • “If citizens... want … why do we do we …?”

  • “How is it that we are … and we are … simultaneously?”

  • “Why do we say … and do …?”

Additional Resources

Lipmanowicz, H. & McCandless, K. Wicked Questions: Articulate the Paradoxical Challenges That a Group Must Confront to Succeed. Liberating Structures. http://www.liberatingstructures.com/4-wicked-questions/

Last updated