Author: Mandy Kämpf and Sharman Haley

Abstract: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in 2010 reflects a series of system-wide risk management failures. It is imperative that Alaskans increase their understanding of risk complexity as resource development shifts from the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Offshore. This research critically evaluates linear risk management practices by
applying the wicked problem concept. Wicked problems are problems that are unique, novel, highly socially and
technically complex and include stakeholders who have varying definitions and understanding of risks. This
research uses a content analysis methodology to examine presentations of the North by 2020 seminar series,
addressing questions such as: who are stakeholders in Arctic offshore resource development projects? What risk
paradigms, risk attitudes, and data do they employ? How can the wicked problem concept contribute to the new
project management paradigm of Project Management of the Second Order (PM-2)? This research concludes that
natural resource development projects in the Arctic offshore are a wicked problem. It synthesizes strategies from
soft system thinking literature to assist project and public managers in identifying and navigating wicked projects.
This paper suggests a complementary approach, consisting of both—hard and soft approaches— to identify and
manage risks.


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