Problem solving

The Power of Defining the Problem

Damilola Ajayi Written by Damilola Ajayi · 1 min read >

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it,” Albert Einstein said.

Problems can be defined, analyzed and solved in five easy steps. The keys to problem analysis are define the problem, study the evidence, review the impacts, review the causes and make recommendations.

First, clearly define the problem. A problem is a deviation from expectation or goal, for example if we want a strong product portfolio innovation process to drive future growth, a problem statement could be our portfolio innovation process is not driving adequate market success.

Next evidence is required to prove that the problem is real. How do you really know that the problem exists? It’s important to present evidence that proves the problem is real. We would rely on specific examples of established competitors and start-ups that were first to market, leaving our firm behind. We would also cite customer feedback that demonstrates a failure to meet their emerging market needs or the organization’s lateness to market.

Thirdly it is necessary to consider why we care. How does the stated problem pass the “so what?” test? Here we state the impact the problem is having on our business or department. Examples of this for a business could be loss in market share, missed growth opportunities, and missed revenue and profitability targets are all relevant and significantly impact the business.

Next is necessary to identify what is driving the problem. It’s important to analyze the systemic causes of the problem. In most cases the causes are as a result of change, hence the need to review what changed and how the change has led to the problem being experienced

Finally, a recommendation for the identified problem(s) would be required. Resolving this would simply require for us to reverse the cause. As long as the earlier stated four pieces are done properly, the recommendations are obvious and simple – just reverse the causes. the causes are stated accurately and solved with the corresponding recommendations, the problem should be solved, or at least mitigated.

In summary, well-defined problems lead to breakthrough solutions. When developing new products, processes, or even businesses, most companies aren’t sufficiently rigorous in defining the problems they’re attempting to solve and articulating why those issues are important. Without that rigor, organizations miss opportunities, waste resources, and end up pursuing innovation initiatives that aren’t aligned with their strategies

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