These fifteen brainstorming prompts will help you and your team solve problems together.
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When an organization sets about solving what is perceived as a problem, is it addressing the real issue or is it addressing the symptoms that cause the most heartburn?

When an organization sets about solving what is perceived as a problem, is it addressing the real issue or is it addressing the symptoms that cause the most heartburn?

During my graduate program at the Institute of Design in Chicago, one class I took was dedicated to problem framing. Often, people see problems in a negative light. A “problem” is seen as something not working correctly, or there is some pain involved. However, it may just be that the problem is an opportunity to grow the business because someone’s needs/wants/desires are not being met.

Defining, and subsequently reframing, a problem area can be complicated. It requires investigation and analysis to uncover the essence of the real issue. It requires creativity for people to start exploring possible solutions and applying decision criteria. Finally, planning and technical skills are needed for building and implementing the selected solution.

During this process, framing the real problem is the critical element. Some possible framing problems may include having the wrong people involved and subsequently having blind spots in the evaluation. The wrong drivers may be identified, or there may be hidden or flawed assumptions being made. Finally, the scope of the problem may be incorrect and the business could be facing a fundamental business issue and not a tactical, executional issue.

Once a problem has been detailed, an attempt should be made to reframe the problem into a potential business opportunity. How can the business solve this problem in a way that will create new customer value? How can this problem be solved in a way that will generate new revenue?

Solving problems in light of what it can do for the customer is the reason a business exists. Everyone seems to want answers fast, and to implement a solution even faster. However, this may actually cause the problems to get worse because the business is not addressing the real causes being faced. More time spent doing root cause analysis and evaluation up-front may save your company a lot of wasted time, energy and money in the long run.

Problem definition is the key part of the discovery and opportunity identification processes, and will help business leaders see things in a new light. Looking at the world in new ways is the first step in the innovation process.

Listen to this podcast to find out what roles curiosity and humility play in innovation.