Problem Statement

 

Creative tools > Problem Statement

When to use it | How to use it | Example | How it works | See also

 

When to use it

Use it when defining the problem, to get a clear definition of what you want.

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.

 

Quick

  X        Long

 

Logical

  X        Psychological

 

Individual

      X   Group

 

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.

Resolve differences

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.

KISS

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.

Balance

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.

Example

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 solution.

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.

See also

Is − Is not, Positives, Negatives

 

 
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