Knowledge Ecosystem Approach to Addressing the Wicked Problems


  • Giedrius Jucevičius Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania



knowledge ecosystem, wicked problems, complexity, complex adaptive systems


Knowledge ecosystem is a relatively recent notion, which is primarily associated with the development of new knowledge through joint research and collaboration. They encompass the different actors that come together and search for new solutions and value propositions leading to the generation of new knowledge (Dattée, Alexy and Autio, 2018; Järvi, Almpanopoulou and Ritala, 2018). Knowledge ecosystems represent the networks of geographically co-located actors responsible for generating knowledge at the stage of pre-commercial engagement (Clarysse, 2014). The paper argues that the concept of knowledge ecosystems should not remain focused on public R&D-driven initiatives, but can be extended into the more complex social fields, such as addressing the “wicked problems” in multi-stakeholder environments. Wicked problems are characterized by the lack of clear problem definition and causality. They contain many inherent contradictions, complex stakeholder perspectives, and uncertain outcomes of intervention. The extant traditional research on addressing the wicked problems is dominated by the agent perspective (e.g. design thinking approach to resolving complex issues). In this paper, we argue that the effective tackling of the wicked problems owes primarily to the existence of effective ecosystems as platforms for accessing and managing the diverse social knowledge. We contrast the ecosystem-as-affiliation vs. ecosystem-as-structure approaches (Adner, 2017), and prefigurative vs. partial form of knowledge ecosystem (Järvi, Almpanopoulou, Ritala, 2018). The discussion presented in the paper shows that ecosystem-as-affiliation view and prefigurative form of KE is more suitable for addressing the complexity of wicked problems. On the other hand, the ecosystem-as-structure view and partial form of knowledge ecosystem is more appropriate for large corporate and public actors in search of the transdisciplinary solutions in a predefined area of expertise.