Wicked Problems

Reflections

3 min read

Some problems have such complex social, economic, or organizational interactions that they can’t be solved fully. They’ve become popularly known as ”wicked problems.”

I’m not fond of these problems, though I’ve seen my share of them—they seem to be ubiquitous in systems-engineering design. However, I’m fascinated with the name. It reminds me of ”fuzzy logic,” a brilliant and oxymoronic phrase that juxtaposes an adjective connoting warmth and softness with a noun that implies something cold and mechanical. In ”wicked problem,” an adjective meaning evil or sinful, usually assigned to humans, is attached to an abstract, inert noun. The name suggests that the problem itself is consciously malicious. It knows that someone is out there working on it, and it is going to stop that person from getting anywhere.

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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

His pivot from defense helped a tiny tuning-fork prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes

11 min read
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Asad Madni and the Life-Saving Sensor

In 1992, Asad M. Madni sat at the helm of BEI Sensors and Controls, overseeing a product line that included a variety of sensor and inertial-navigation devices, but its customers were less varied—mainly, the aerospace and defense electronics industries.

And he had a problem.

The Cold War had ended, crashing the U.S. defense industry. And business wasn’t going to come back anytime soon. BEI needed to identify and capture new customers—and quickly.

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