Types of challenges
Types of challenges
Problem-solving requires us knowing the state of disorder the organization is dealing with when a problem occurs. The solution is not automatically clear and different ways of problem-solving are required. The Cynefin framework of Snowden (Snowden & Boone, 2007) helps to understand the context and nature of a situation. It can be viewed within an ordered context, where analysis gives good insights into the problem at stake, when in general the problems are thus Well-defined. Possible interventions can be based on logical thinking, expertise and the results of these interventions are more or less predictable. In this respect the terms obvious and complicated are used. In both circumstances a thorough analysis of the situation may lead to a solution that can help the organization to overcome the problem. In contrast unordered state can be identified as complex or chaotic circumstances, where analysis is helpful but not enough to deal with the challenges, which can be described as ill-defined. In these cases, the causes are unknown, the effects are unpredictable and unstable. Next time when the same intervention will be initiated, the results may be completely different.
To sum up the characterization of well- versus ill-defined challenges in line with a research done within our research group, Pel (2018) defines the concepts as follows: Well-defined challenges have the following characteristics:
- There is an explicit set of criteria for testing the proposed solution (Simon, 1973)
- They present all elements of the problem (Jonassen, 2000)
- There is at least one problem space in which the initial problem state, the goal state and all other states that may be reached are included (Simon, 1973)
- They involve concepts and rules that appear well-structured in a domain of knowledge that is also well-structured and predictable (Jonassen, 1997)
- They have a preferred, prescribed solution process (Jonassen, 1997)
In short, well-structured problems have a well-defined initial state (what is known), a well-defined goal state (the solution is reachable) and a known procedure for solving the problem (solution process). eLearning can handle well-defined challenges easily. Ill-defined challenges are problems for which there are conflicting assumptions, evidences and opinions which may lead to different solutions. (a.o. Kitchner, 1983). They may have a number of different solutions or no solution at all. And there is no guaranteed procedure to reach such solution. They have the following characteristics:
- One or more of the problem elements are unknown (Jonassen, 2000)
- They may have multiple solutions, or no solution at all (Kitchner, 1983)
- There are a number of criteria for testing and evaluating the proposed solutions (Jonassen, 1997)
- They present uncertainty about which concepts, rules or principles are necessary for reaching a solution (Jonassen, 1997)
So ill-structured problems lack a clearly defined initial state and their solutions (if any) are neither predictable nor convergent. We believe that adding certain functionalities to eLearning can assist ill-defined problem-solving processes.