Key Terms: Wicked Problem, Dilemma, Issue, Conflict, Contested Space, Controversy, Social Disruption
BLT is a framework for exploring problems, especially problems that arise from social disruptions. A problem is any situation that requires the coordination of parts or the creation of new parts for a purpose.
Whilst BLT can be applied to a range of problems, it is mainly used to approach wicked problems and complex issues. Controversial social issues are those that ‘divide society and for which significant groups within society offer conflicting explanations and solutions based on alternative values’ (Stradling, Noctor and Baines, 1984, p. 2). BLT is based on the premise that poor recognition of problems can exacerbate the frustration, polarisation, fragmentation, disconnection and escalation of social disruptions.
The application of the BLT begins with the identification of a topic.
The topic can be described in very general terms at this stage of the process. Even the most basic object will open up numerous topics and sub-topics. However, BLT ultimately aims to facilitate thinking, teaching and leadership through significant social disruptions involving social, environmental, technological, existential and cultural upheaval.
BLT represents chronological and spatial layers of a PROBLEM in order to encourage thinking about its context, entanglement with other problems, and the many ways of representing a situated problem through time and across disciplines. The layers of the problem frame are generally left open between the origin point of the past and the infinity point of the future, as:
More primary framing of the problem seeks more basic and generalisible descriptions of the problem. More tertiary framing reveals seeks more differentiated and contextualised descriptions of the problem.
The PROBLEM frame is always negotiated through other frames. What may appear as a problem at one layer that implicates intense MOODs and even violence, can be shown to have origins in a problem involving a simple distribution of MATTER at another layer. Relatedly, this simple problem of distribution may be related to a problem of MIND in a related context. Big Little Thinking (BLT) encourages multiple frames, twists and turns towards clearer recognition and responses to problems.
Big Little Thinking (BLT) is most related to problems that relate to social disruption. Social disruption relates to ecological, technological, existential, and cultural upheavals. Itten's research on social division identifies polarisation, fragmentation, disconnection, frustration and escalation of conflict as the symptoms of disruption.
To paraphrase Rittel and Webber’s (1973) original conceptualisation of wicked problems – they:
Adding to this list, is Dorst’s (2006, 2015) and Adam’s (2016) observation that wicked problems often reflect core paradoxes or tensions (e.g. nature and culture) and are exacerbated when these tensions are treated as binary oppositions (e.g. culture>nature) a priori.
BLT is a framework for generating responses and solutions to problems.
The solution dimension of BLT encourages clearer and more connected identification of solutions. It helps to show that one solution usually has many sub-solutions and related solutions. It can also show that some ‘solutions’ create problems and some ‘problems’ create solutions.
Key Terms: Solution, Answer, Response, Fix, Remedy, Approach
Whilst BLT can be applied to different types of solution, it is mainly used to approach wicked problems and complex issues. To recall, controversial social issues are those that ‘divide society and for which significant groups within society offer conflicting explanations and solutions based on alternative values’ (Stradling, Noctor and Baines, 1984, p. 2).
BLT represents chronological and spatial layers of SOLUTION in order to encourage thinking about their context, entanglement with other solutions, and the many ways of representing a situated solution through time and across disciplines. While the layers are generally left open to interpretation between past and future, it can be useful to frame a solution in relation to more specific layers and frames of MATTER, MIND, MOOD and MEANING.
Solutions are always negotiated through BLT's frames. What may appear as a solution at one layer that resolves intense MOODs and even violence, can be shown to have origins in a solution involving a simple distribution of MATTER at another layer. Relatedly, this simple solution of distribution may be related to a solution of MIND arising from a related context. The ZYGO encourages multiple frames, twists and turns as an act of coordination towards solutions.