Wicked Problem, Design Thinking and Aravind Eyecare

“Intelligence and capability are not enough. There must also be the joy of doing something beautiful. Being of service to God and humanity means going well beyond the sophistication of the best technology, to the humble demonstration of courtesy and compassion to each patient”

– Dr.G.Venkataswamy, founder Aravind Eyecare

Several managers admit that they are confronted with issues that cannot be resolved using usual techniques like gathering data, defining issues more clearly, or breaking them down into small problems.


These problems are difficult to resolve because they are “wicked problems”, problems that cannot be solved using usual problem solving techniques. They need innovative thinking.

Wicked problem is a form of social or cultural problem that is difficult to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements.


Wicked problems need what is called as design thinking to solve the problem.

Design thinking brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable.


“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

—Tim Brown, president and CEO, IDEO


India has vast population which suffers from cataract. Solution by bureaucrats will be to build more hospitals, train more doctors etc. It will increase the burden on government as most people being poor cannot afford cost of surgery, but India being poor nation cannot allocate more funds for health sector. Providing health care for poor in India is a wicked problem.


Aravind Eyecare used design thinking to solve the problem. Solution to problem came from McDonalds. The McDonald model of serving large population at low cost and high speed was used as model by Aravind Eyecare.


There were two costs- Fixed costs ex. cost of surgery and variable costs ex. cost of lens. They reduced cost of surgery by accepting donations from charitable institutions, subsidies from government, surgeries on mass scale etc. This is achieved through high quality, large volume care and a well-organised system.

Secondly, they decided to manufacture the lens themselves, this reduced the cost of lens significantly.


A bureaucrat could not have come up with such ideas, simply because he is tied up with rules and regulations and internal politics.


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