Hey! What's Your Problem?

Monday, 12 September 2016 07:33
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Proper problem definition is key to any successful problem solving effort

Greetings! In speaking with prospective clients, I routinely ask them, "What would help look like to you?". This seemingly innocuous question is actually critical, and should be at the core of any problem solving exercise as it sparks discussion regarding the problem description.

Curious to learn more? Read on, dear friends.

Hey! What's Your Problem? I am not the first person to write about the importance of clearly defining a problem before starting work to solve it. Here is a link to a terrific article from Dwayne Spradlin (formerly CEO of Innocentive) in HBR.com that discusses its criticality in problem solving: https://hbr.org/2012/09/the-power-of-defining-the-prob . In essence, Spradlin encourages us to ensure that we are solving the right problem.

In new product development, companies will sometimes define a preferred solution rather than explicitly articulate their problem. By doing this, they can inadvertently preclude the possibility of identifying potentially superior options. While this sounds odd, it happens more often than one might think.

Some time ago, a client engaged me to identify a product they could source, modify and rapidly commercialize. They modeled their preferred solution upon an existing product's design with some modest differences. After undertaking a search effort, I identified products they could source that were consistent with their brief. Shortly thereafter, the client enthusiastically reported identifying a product that promised to deliver the desired consumer benefits, albeit with a very different product design from that described in the scouting brief. That this occurred should serve as evidence that the problem was inadequately defined.

In dealing with any problem solving situation, it is wise and advisable for the parties involved to agree to a specific problem definition prior to kicking off the problem solving effort.

"Connecting You With The Right Solutions" BFS Innovations, Inc.

Since 2005, BFS Innovations has helped its Fortune 500 clients with technology scouting, new business creation and business development services. Contact Michael today at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 614 937-2408 to discuss your company's needs.

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