The nature of work-related problems: messy, co-produced and wicked

Fergusson, Lee (2019) The nature of work-related problems: messy, co-produced and wicked. Journal of Work-Applied Management, 11 (2). pp. 106-120. ISSN 2205-2062

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Purpose – Work-based research is the applied form of work-based learning (WBL) and has been described as the systematic and methodical process of investigating work-related 'problems'. Such problems can either be associated with specific workplaces and domains of practice or may more broadly be described as practical, social or real-world in nature. However, the specific characteristics of work-related problems for organisations and society have yet to be explained, and inadequate problem definition, multiple and competing goals, and lack of agreement on cause-effect relationships have hampered understanding. The purpose of this paper is to examine the nature of work-related problems and provides examples from real-world contexts in Australia.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper provides models and examples of standard and non-standard work-related problems based on prior research and current practice.

Findings – Research paradigms view work-related problems as either definable and solvable or ill-defined, complex, difficult to describe and not easily rectified. The former view is concerned with 'high ground problems' associated with traditional research methods; the latter with 'lowland, messy, confusing problems' more frequently associated with the social sciences. Irrespective of orientation and definition, work-related problems have one thing in common: they are typically messy, constantly changing and complex, and many are co-produced and wicked.

Originality/value – Despite difficulties with identifying and isolating the various types of work-related problem, the paper establishes the importance of doing so for the practitioner. The definition and examination
of work-related problems contribute to an evolving formulation of WBL and its application to private
organisations, government agencies and work more generally.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Education (1 Jul 2019 -)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Education (1 Jul 2019 -)
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2020 04:26
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2022 00:51
Uncontrolled Keywords: work-based learning, work-related problem, wicked problem, co-produced problem, messy problem, work-based research
Fields of Research (2008): 13 Education > 1302 Curriculum and Pedagogy > 130205 Humanities and Social Sciences Curriculum and Pedagogy (excl. Economics, Business and Management)
13 Education > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130313 Teacher Education and Professional Development of Educators
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390107 Humanities and social sciences curriculum and pedagogy (excl. economics, business and management)
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390307 Teacher education and professional development of educators
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): E Expanding Knowledge > 97 Expanding Knowledge > 970113 Expanding Knowledge in Education
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