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Wild Problems

Denmark is a great society. Ever changing governments have continuously succeeded in creating an everyday life that was better than the one yesterday. But now it is as if the major progress initiatives have become few and far between. 80 pct. of the Danes don’t believe the Danish society will have improved in 10 years time. The politicians’ attempts at reforms are not impressing the Danes. How many new political reforms can you think of, that have actually made everyday life better?


The people who work in and with politics themselves believe we have to change paths. But are politicians and government officials to blame? No, not necessarily. It is at the core the problems themselves that have changed. We have moved from tame to wild problems.


Looking back, Denmark has overtaken many countries in regards of prosperity within the last 50 years. This is because we have been good at solving the so-called tame problems.  These are problems which are delineated, understandable and where a solution can be found such as making road networks, building schools, giving rights to retirement pensions and hospital care.


Today, we are left with the wild problems. These are problems which are border-crossing and recalcitrant as well as problems which are not defined easily or solved simply by raising a building or instilling a right. If we have to improve public health, have more people in the labour market, help the socially vulnerable, increase learning in public schools, improve young people’s well being, fix the climate crisis or speed up productivity, it requires something completely different. And in these areas, Denmark is far less impressive regarding problemsolving.

When faced with wild problems people often lose their breaths. They walk in circles trying different solutions that used to work once upon a time. They move tax brackets up and down, introduce new benefits, rules, rights, and regulations. And, if that doesn’t help, they get assistance from commissions, working groups or expert committees that don’t contain even a trace of the people who actually have to do the implementation and put the reforms into practice. And then, when the pace gets very high and an answer is required in an instant, the result will often be pseudo-policies, a sparkling flyer or a pool that has to be distributed – instead of taking a hold of the roots of the wild problems.


We are in the middle of a paradox of the modern democracy. The problems of the society are becoming wilder and wilder, and at the same time our solutions are becoming more and more tame. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Maybe Denmark should aspire to be the world’s best at tackling wild problems, just like we were the best at dealing with the tame kind? And why not? With a cooperative democracy as strong as ours, we will have a great prerequisite to succeed with the wild problems. But it requires something different. We must rethink the way in which we create societal change.

Book a talk on wild problems

I have an array of talks on wild problems. In these, I take the listeners on an exciting journey through the way in which we have failed to handle wild problems through history – and I give examples from past and present on how to tackle wild problems with different methods. We are going to both Uruk and Ukraine and then back to the Denmark of today.


Do you want to hear more? Book a talk through the form below.

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