The Worthy Problem Method
the science and art of creating
and solving worthy problems
Global Warming is not a problem - it is a condition. If you do not care what happens to most of humanity, a myriad of other species, and to Planet Earth, no problem is possible. A problem can only exist when there there is a condition in conflict with a desire and objective and the means exist to resolve this through right action.
All problems are local, specific and personal. All problems are created.
Both local and global conditions are real. Any action can lead to unintended consequences. Problems defined and solved on one level of recursion - say water issues in New York City, for example - can lead to extremely adverse conditions on other levels of recursion - the upstate New York water shed or the North Atlantic coast line. How to resolve the conflicts between actions taken and solutions accomplished between one local and another and between one set of values and another has long frustrated humankind.
In the complex, interconnected world of today - a world divided into intellectual, religious, political and economic conclaves - the conflict between one “solution” implemented somewhere and the perceptions, needs and values of people somewhere else, has led to a dangerous and often immoral mix of conflict, violence, exploitation and apathy. Some see nothing wrong with such a situation, they even revel in it and seek personal advantage. This paper is not for them. This paper is for those who see the complexity of the condition and seek a means to do better.
There is a better way and this is the subject of this paper. What is required is a method that is requisite with the complexity of the conditions we face on both global and local scales. This method has been systematically developed and tested over a generation. It ranges from how to think about complex systemic issues - on all scales - to how to design and implement solutions that lead to better results while reducing adverse consequences.
This method is no panacea. It does work. It is about a new way of working. It involves a new paradigm of what is a good outcome. It requires using the tools of the 21st Century differently and in service of solutions that to many today seem impossible and impractical. I will argue that the “solutions” we are getting now are “impossible” - they do not hold - and impractical measured by their systematic results. I will argue that there is a class of problems which humanity has systematically failed to solve. These are systemic problems. I will define systemic in detail later. For now, think of a river which runs through three countries, several counties or regions, a dozen major cites and is a key aspect of the personal habitat of millions of people. Who owns it? Who pollutes it? Who stewards it? The answer is no-one and everyone. This s a systemic circumstance. It is complex and emergent. An action taken any place can have multiple adverse consequences in other parts of the system-in-focus as well as other systems of which it is a part. Few will agree to what is the problem or what is a viable solution or what makes ecological-economic sense. Many times in the past peoples have gone to war over conditions of this sort. If we fail to change, they surely will in the future. And, the consequences become more drastic and impossible to “fix.”
What is not seen is that these conflicts are not about philosophies, religions, governments, the “science” and all of the other myriad of things we fruitlessly try to get people to change. The real conflict centers around the problem solving METHOD. We can give up trying to change people - an impossible and unworthy task. We can change how we create and solve problems, and implement their solutions - togehter. Approached correctly, this is realatively simple.
It was the architecture of what I call Worthy Problems - which form the bridge between the many scales of organizational recursion that consequently befuddles humanity - and it is the system and method which is usually unconsciously, often blindly, followed - despite centuries of failure - which had to be re-conceived and re-engineered in order to find a way to engage systemic issues on their own level and in their own terms. This is now done - accomplished significantly beyond the proof-of-concept stage. The task ahead is to launch a sustainable effort which addresses the challenges facing humanity employing this method on a sufficient scale to offer an alternative course than the one we are now on by default. What is required is a trusted, neutral systems-integration function which works across the multiple communities engaged in a Worthy Problem effort. Their exists now many efforts aimed at putting such a function in place. It is for these that this paper is written.
This paper will be oganized as follows:

The Definition and Hierarchy of Worthy Problems

The Transition of Worthy Problems to Worthy Projects

Description of the Worthy Problem Method

Environments and Projects in which this Method can be applied

The Making of a Systems Integration Function with global capacity

My personal list of Worthy Problems and Projects

Annotated Links to Resources on this and other web sites which are relevant to this thesis

Caveat: what I am saying - and not

What follows is as brief an explanation of this method and the opportunity it presents as is consistent with a minimum level of completeness. Much of the content in depth will be found by following the links provided. The Taylor Method originated from my work in the1960s. It is the product of systematic effort since the mid 70s and has been practiced since 1980. MG Taylor Corporation was formed, in 1980, with the mission to support Transition Managers whose task is to facilitate transformations of kind implied by this paper. We have developed a method which has been tested on projects of great complexity, immense scale and which cut across multiple communities of interest, globally. We know is works. The method was invented from the beginning to deal with Worthy Problems - although we did not name them as such - of a systemic, global nature. For this reason, this paper is centric to this work. This is not to suggest that this is the only way to accomplish the mission - it is a way, and as far as I know the most powerful and tested. It will take many such methods for humanity to survive, prosper and reach our greater potential. It is not an attempt to grab the systems-integration role. We can perform this on a project level yet the level of systems integration indicated here goes far beyond the capacity of any agent or single agency. It must be a distributed, autonomous FUNCTION. I believe that all work and art is local and personal - and, that all individual actions have global impacts. This paper is an expression of this belief.
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