Recently, Dr. Gail Fairhurst (a friend, mentor and colleague of mine from the University of Cincinnati) visited Saint Vincent to give a guest lecture on her research. While her comments were primarily about how to be an effective leader through focusing on communication style, she also talked about the nature of problems that leaders must solve. I am reminded of some research of hers that I read in which she identifies problems as “wicked” when they are challenging to describe, difficult to solve and closely related to other problems. She and her colleagues term these to be problem “knots” because they are often tangled together in such a way that multiple problems relate to, confuse and add to each other (Sheep, Fairhurst, & Khazanchi, 2017).
This semester I am teaching a course called Endangered Species Conservation. I find that most people have no idea what a course with this title is about, so I’ll explain. First, an endangered species is an animal (or plant, or other living organism) that is exposed to one or more risk factors that could lead to the species’ extinction. Thus, a course on the conservation of endangered species should explore the reasons for the heightened risk and what can be done to lower it.