The Three Angle Rule for Understanding Wicked Problems / by Sara Snyder

I struggle synthesizing the problems within the food system because they are interconnected, extremely complex and utterly massive. Highlighting one small issue neglects the nuances of others. 

But in times of need, Beyonce is here to save my day. Well, this time her stylist is. In my fit of trying to give a logical explanation for the wicked problems within the food system, I diverted to Facebook. And this gem of an article appeared in my feed: Beyonce's Stylist is About to Light Up Your Selfie.  

While it is mostly a sales pitch for his new pre-lit selfie case, (no, I'm not planning on buying it) his three angle suggestion for all successful selfies made me realize that it is easier to address big problems by having at least three go-to viewpoints for looking at them with a solution-driven mindset. 

Take this piece on the tomato. Rain is destroying the yields of the tomato crop on an organic farm. The author puts the plants at risk as she struggles to pick as many tomatoes as she can before they become waterlogged. She realizes that her method of going in from the side is not as effective as going in from the bottom and folding the branches upward to grab the hard-to-reach fruits. With her new found perspective, the plants are safe, the tomatoes are picked and she can continue through the field before the rain overwhelms the yields. 

When the author looked in a new direction, the solution to the tomato picking problem became simple. The absolute nature of wicked problems is that they are too difficult to fix with one viewpoint. The complexities make them grand, but with at least three respectable angles, effective solutions can be crafted. 

For the rest of my time thinking about the depths of the food system, I'm hoping to use the following angles:

  1. View from the top: How do politics and business play a role in creating or solving this problem?
  2. View from the bottom: Who is most harmed by this problem and what can we do to mitigate the damage?
  3. View from the side: How do non-human factors play a role in contributing to either the problem or solution?

By focusing my thought process, I hope to be a more effective thinker and collaborator in addressing these wicked problems.