NT Nigel Taptiklis Public Seen by 188

What is the problem we're trying to solve?


Nigel Taptiklis Wed 8 Jul 2015 6:01PM

My work and practice is wicked problems. The first rule/characteristic of wicked problems is that the frame/approach determines how the problem is defined, and therefore determines the solution.

In systems thinking this is expressed along the lines of 'the greatest leverage point in a system, is how you conceive and think of the system'.

So with my work being in wicked problems, that will be my frame here. And while Zaid Hassan, author of The Social Labs Revolution: A new approach to solving our most complex challenges says there are no normal problems, that doesn't mean their might not be a simple solution or approach that could work.

What I do think is important is to 'zoom out' above ourselves, and be mindful of the frames we're each bringing. I think this will help us to understand where we each fit in. We bring multiple frames, but it might be useful to identify and share the frame we're currently holding the strongest.

So from my complex/wicked challenge framing, we're trying to solve:

a) multiple symptoms arising from how we currently do housing, such as atomising/fragmenting communities by demographics (eg age, income); sprawling over fertile land; cold, damp and unhealthy homes; people feeling isolated; and the CO2 emissions associated with individual vs collective consumption, inefficient use of energy, and long commutes.
b) The problem of how to solve the above...


Caroline Taylor Sat 11 Jul 2015 2:04AM

I really like your summary of the problem @nigeltaptiklis - I've been having similar thoughts. Where I've got to is that our problem and purpose need to connect with how we consider we might have an impact on climate change (as this is one of our overriding problems). So from my limited knowledge we think one of the contributors to climate change is greater urban sprawl of atomised household units because it discourages resource sharing between households and increases transport and energy emissions.

So my go at the problem is that there is not enough people living in communities of affordable, life enhancing medium density housing.

We think this is caused by a lack of choice of this type of housing and a lack of readily available knowledge about how to create it. We think addressing these problems might help to increase demand for this type of housing.


Drew Arensberg Sat 11 Jul 2015 8:59AM

Very nice work @nigeltaptiklis & @carolinetaylor. I think it's important to be aware of what the current canvas looks like. However, I don't live in Wellington, can someone please give me an idea of what you think this scenario looks like:

I am a

young couple -or-
small family -or-
couple who would like to downsize,

looking to live within the Wellington city limits so we can walk or take a bus to get the everyday goods we need, within proximity to a school system so I can send my kids (or future kids) to school, and close enough to town to work and make a living. What are my current options for putting a roof over my head and what kind of budget would I need for each of these options?


Caroline Taylor Sat 11 Jul 2015 9:50AM

Hi Drew great to have you on board. Assuming you don't own a car if you're a family you'd probably buy a house on the bus route or close to it in Miramar, Newtown, Karori, Aro Valley, Strathmore or Island Bay for about $500-700k or an apartment in town (I'm not sure how much one is - possibly about the same). Renting a similar property is about $500-700 a week I think. If you add on travel by train that extends the available areas out to Lower and Upper Hutt, Porirua and Kapiti Coast. Prices are similar but a broader range. If you're a fit couple you probably have a few more options for locations and you may be able to spend slightly less for a smaller property. There are also townhouses and flats available that are usually more suited to couples.


Drew Arensberg Sun 12 Jul 2015 8:04AM

Thanks Caroline. I looked into the rental prices for apartments and you're spot on. Roughly $28,000 a year rent + estimated $3,000 utilities annually. That's insane.


Lucas Kengmana Mon 13 Jul 2015 1:10PM

Hi guys, sorry I've been radio silent on here the last few days - I stopped getting updates about every post sent to my inbox so I assumed not much was going on (I still don't understand Loomio).

I think the costs above are a little overstated at the lower end because I know of people living in two bed room or three bedroom places (flats and houses) and paying around $300-$400 per week in the inner suburbs (e.g. Newtown). @drewarensberg I'm not sure what data set you're using but if you're using a mean value just bear in mind that there are some very flash apartments around the city which will push the average up. I'm not contesting that there are more expensive places available but it is worth noting that there are cheap places available as well.

Buying an apartment is almost always cheaper than buying houses, but of course there is a huge range - anything from $150k for a small one bedroom apartment to over $1m for a waterfront penthouse - but a couple or a small family who were willing to be economical could probably find a suitable place for around $250k-$300k.

Anyway returning to the main point of the thread, @nigeltaptiklis I think that the problems you list are totally valid and capture our purpose really well but I'm not sure that they are at the right level for this particular section.

If you look at the Social Lean Canvas, the note under the Problem section says: "What are the biggest problems? These are problems that arise for your customers, not the overarching problems in the Purpose section."

It's a bit hard to come up with a problem statement without narrowing the scope of what we are looking at. However, if we are looking at promoting a greater uptake of modular homes, one problem might be: that current modular houses don't meet the consumer's needs. Another might be that going through the consent process is too daunting.

The idea is that the problem is the thing(s) that we are trying to solve for the consumer and that if we solve them the consumer should purchase/use our product. We then look at the assumptions the lie under that problem and we design tests to see whether these assumptions hold.

I've had a go at seeing what this would like if we were looking at creating a platform which makes the process of forming Baugruppen/other forms of sustainable building more efficient. I've attached a draft experiment board in an excel spreadsheet.


Nigel Taptiklis Mon 13 Jul 2015 8:18PM

Great work @lucaskengmana

@chrisrowe and @annerowe could check with the Wikihouse crew to see if they have done this for the Wikihouse too.

Could we summarise these as part of project case studies?

I'm also interested in what the experiment board looks like if the customer is people trying to do Baugruppen or infill projects, and the Ourspace provides services and products as needed.


Lucas Kengmana Tue 14 Jul 2015 12:06AM

@nigeltaptiklis it would certainly be possible to design an experiment board for particular service or product. In fact I think that most of the problems I define are not dependent on them being delivered through an internet/IT channel. There might be other problems which can't be addressed with software but rather need human expertise (for example). If so we would need to design tests for the assumptions around these things.


Caroline Taylor Wed 15 Jul 2015 6:02AM

Great work @lucaskengmana and @nigeltaptiklis I'm also keen to add an experiment around our assumption that higher density co-housing (including Wikihouse and baugruppen) is good for climate change. I think it's important we test this and find out the up to date research/experience on this so we know the parameters of what we're encouraging and supporting. It may be that between us we already have this nailed (I'm still going through the articles and videos in the thread and I wasn't involved in the early conversations). I'd welcome being pointed in the direction of anything useful. If we're still to test this I'm happy to work on this with others. Have we talked to the NZ Centre for Sustainable Cities?


Lucas Kengmana Wed 15 Jul 2015 12:56PM

@carolinetaylor I have been looking at this at a qualitative level and my understanding is that the carbon reduction comes from two sources: (a) more energy efficient homes and (b) the transport emissions saved from living closer to the city and having access to public transport (often a part of planning a Baugruppe). There are two things that potentially reduce the level of energy saving: (1) the energy required to build the new apartment (although this may not be the case if the alternative was building a non-sustainable building instead), and (2) the rebound effect - e.g. warming the house to a higher temperature because it is now cheaper to do this, or with modular houses, people may be drawn to the suburbs because it is easier to build them out there.

I'm fairly confident that the net impact of these projects will be positive because I think that in most cases our buildings will be replacing other building and because, if done smartly, more sustainable buildings pay themselves off relatively quickly (see this TED talk for more https://www.ted.com/talks/catherine_mohr_builds_green?language=en).

That being said, in New Zealand, the rebound effect is likely to be large because NZers living in poorly insulated homes often just grin and bear it. Government subsidies for insulation have not returned much by way of a reduction in energy usage but they have had a positive effect on health.

Also some would argue that energy efficiency reduces less emissions in NZ because a large proportion of our energy generation already comes from renewables. I disagree with this proposition because the plants that are most likely to shut down if we reduce our demand for electricity are the gas and coal plants.

I think it would be really difficult to say what the quantitative impact would be because of all variables but if you (and/or others) want to put some time into it, I would be interested in your findings.


Lucas Kengmana Thu 16 Jul 2015 4:31AM

@carolinetaylor I found this video (https://www.ted.com/talks/catherine_mohr_builds_green?language=en) quite informative on the topic of whether it is worth demolishing a house and building a new one - spoiler alert, if you do it smartly it will pay itself off in six to ten years but if you do it wrong (taking steps most widely advocated by environmentalists it can take 50 years).

I can't remember where I came across it so apologies if this is a repost.