It is now almost 30 years since Horst Rittel coined the term “wicked” for ill-defined problem sets which are too complex to be solved by rational systematic processes. To what extent today’s industry practice has adequately come to terms with such problems still remains open to discussion. This paper is concerned with team decision making during project definition, understood as the phase in which the design task is defined and its constraints are established sufficiently to launch design development. The concept of wicked problems is applied in an effort to improve project definition processes. Based on collaborative argumentation and reflection processes, a project learning model is proposed to better manage the resolution of wicked problems in project definition. Particular emphasis is placed on considering project definition as an adaptive process that incorporates project change through the co-evolution of problem formulation and solution generation.
Design management, organizational learning, project definition, stakeholder complexity, wicked problems.