Wicked Problem

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In 1973, Rittel, H.W.J. & Webber, M.M. coined the term "Wicked Problem" in Dilemmas in a general theory of planning, Policy Sci (1973) 4: 155. [1]


European Definitions

RESIN project

The RESIN project [2] gives the following definition:

A problem that is categorized by a great number of uncertainties. These include: the stakeholders involved, the boundaries of the problem, long-term organisational developments and responsibilities, amongst others. [3]

National Definitions


Wicked Problem: a problem which has no simple solution because the precise nature of the problem cannot readily be defined. [4]

Wicked problems are commonly found within complex environments, where constantly evolving interdependencies make it difficult to define problems precisely. (Here, “wicked” is used in the sense of “complex” or “challenging”, as opposed to “ethically deplorable”.


  1. doi:10.1007/BF01405730
  2. http://www.resin-cities.eu/
  3. Wijnmalen, D., V. Kamphuis, R. Willems. Decision Support. State of the art report 6, The Resin Project
  4. Foresight: A Glossary, Civil Service College, Singapore