Use it when defining the problem, to get a clear definition of what you
Use it to cause people to all focus their ideas in the same area.
Use it as a discussion point to help people understand what is needed.
How to use it
When starting to solve a creative problem it is a good idea to define
the problem you are trying to solve.
Discuss the context
Start by discussing the overall context and situation in which the
creative activity is aimed. Chunk up to see the
bigger picture and all the actors involved.
Seek the pain
Solving problems often means removing pain, difficulty, discomfort and
unhappiness of some sort. So look at the people and ask why their
lives are not perfect. Seek where they are unhappy. Find where they are
doing unnecessary work. Root out the pain in their lives.
Seek pleasure, too
'Problem solving' sounds like a
negative thing and can lead people to focus only on pain. You can
reverse this by looking for ways to increase happiness and comfort, for
example giving people things they never even realized they wanted.
Write down problem statement drafts
Write down more than one draft of the problem statement. Remember that
defining the problem is almost a complete project in itself and you may
benefit from going through iterative stages of
convergence and divergence.
Listen and write down everybody's opinion of what the problem really
is. Find the points of agreement and then discuss the differences.
Discover how they are thinking differently and why they have
concluded that the problem is different.
Keep the final problem statement simple. Find a balance between
something that is simple and easy to remember and something that is
comprehensive and covers all bases. A good way of doing this is to use a
short sentence that is a trigger to the conversations you have had.
Also remember to balance close focus with enough space for creative
exploration. If the problem statement is too broad ('Save the whales')
then probably will be insufficient focus on finding a practical single
solution. If the problem statement is too narrow ('Get customers to buy
this one product tomorrow') it may miss broader opportunities. Only you
can tell which is best, by the way. But do explore.
Not a good example:
'We are going on a round-the-world journey in which we need to make
sure that we always are ready for whatever things the world will throw at
us and in consequence we need to have some kind of way of detecting when
we are about to run into problems with some of the environmental issues
that we will face that threaten our subcutaneous conditions.'
A better example:
'How to keep skin safe from the sun'
How it works
Stating the problem may seem obvious, yet many creative efforts fail
because the problem is either unclear or it is focused in the wrong place.
If people have different opinions of what the problem really is, they will
constantly diverge and never be able to find closure on a suitable
The way you state a problem is half the problem and half the solution.
Once you have identified a good problem statement, sometimes the solution
is so obvious that you need little, if any, creative thought afterwards.
Is − Is not,