Resolving wicked problems together, or alone?
While wicked problems are, by definition, contested and contentious when it comes to their formulation and resolution, there's a pretty solid consensus around wicked problem-solving methodologies. Broadly, the idea is that collaborative working practices, involving a wide variety of stakeholders with different perspectives on the problem are likely to be the most effective route in to tackling wicked problems.
Wicked problems are characterised a great deal of complexity and disagreement among stakeholders, and require coordinated action from a broad range of policy makers and practioners. Given this, so the argument runs, leaving the resolution of wicked problems to a small group of experts runs the risk of leaving important aspects of a wicked problem unarticulated and unaddressed. Each individual or group will only have a part of the story, so involving more people will allow you to see the big picture, in all its wickedly daunting form.
Nancy Roberts, one of the central figures in research on wicked problems, has argued in favour of 'collaborative' problem-managing approaches. Group workshop tools for resolving wicked problems have been developed and highly finessed; Robert E. Horn and Robert Weber's paper 'New Tools for Resolving Wicked Problems' presents their 'Mess Mapping' and 'Resolution Mapping' processes, both of which rely on collaborative engagement from a range of stakeholders.
However, recent research by Sandia National Laboratories in the USA has challenged this consensus. Researchers found that the quality and quantity of responses to a case-study wicked problem were higher among individuals working alone, compared to the responses from a group who were able to see and build upon their fellow participants' work via an intranet system. One might, of course, challenge the criteria Sandia used to judge the quality of responses, or question whether other forms of collaborative working, aside from intranet-facilitated brainstorming, would be more effective than working alone. Still, it's interesting and provocative research.