Department of Business Administration

Lund University School of Economics and Management

Wicked problems require wicked solutions

Published: 2020-05-08

A new article on the complexity of collaboration across sectors

Anna Thomasson and Caroline Wigren Kristoferson Photo: Håkan Röjder/David Lundin

What is your recently published article ”Hybridizing the Triple Helix: A prerequisite for managing wicked issues” about?

In short, the article is about the need to collaborate across sectoral boundaries to solve difficult and complex problems, so-called “wicked problems”. For such collaborations, one is happy to create organizations with members from different sectors. Triple Helix is an example of such an organization. However, problems rarely arise in the governance of these cross-sectoral organizations. The difficulties in managing the interests of members from different sectors of a Triple Helix have / are involved in the collaboration. The problem is that if you cannot balance different interests, you cannot benefit from combining expertise and resources from different organizations and sectors. In other words, if one cannot balance interests and create a platform within the organization where interests can be met, the Triple Helix solution also cannot reach its full potential and be an organization where innovation and creativity can flow.

How does it relate to the Covid-19 situation we are in at the moment and what can we learn from this situation?

Covid-19 and the current situation can be seen as an “evil problem” that cannot be solved by an actor alone or actors in one sector of society. It requires cross-sectoral cooperation. We see, for example, how the public sector is trying to help private companies that are currently dealing with declining customer base and revenue. We also see how companies and volunteers are supporting the public sector by, for example, producing protective equipment. What we are seeing right now is the many examples of how cross-sectoral collaboration can happen and how these need to solve difficult problems. We also see how collaborations can look like and what it takes to make them work.

It is in the light of Covid-19 and the collaborations that arise across sectors to deal with the consequences of the virus, there is a need to understand this type of collaboration and how it can be controlled, which is something we write about in our article.

Find the article here:

Thomasson, A. and Wigren Kristofersson, C. (2020). Hybridizing the Triple Helix: A prerequisite for managing wicked issues, Financial Accountability & Management, 36: 207-222.



Striving to meet the challenges facing our society today, there is a growth in the number of cross-sector collaboration. Expectations on these organizations are high in terms of their ability to deliver innovative solutions to wicked issues, but the task is challenging. This study contributes to our understanding of Triple Helix constellations and their ability to take on challenges related to complex and wicked issues. Even if research on hybrid organization is quite extensive, our understanding of how organizations hybridize is still scarce. With a holistic perspective on hybridity, as a point of departure, the purpose in this study is to analyze hybridization in order to investigate to what extent an organization recognize hybridity and adapt strategy and processes in order to exploit hybridity and use it as a source of creativity and innovation. We answer the purpose by combining research on hybrid organization with research on strategy and boundary spanning activities and by analyzing an organization’s hybridizing process, using a case study approach. The study contributes to existing research on organizational hybridity theoretically as well as empirically.