The Real Problem Is the Problem – Part 2

by Leo Frishberg.

In Part 1 of this discussion, we suggest one of the greatest challenges we face when proposing something new is to truly explore the problem space that is linked to our intention.

Recall we suggested that for many organizations, stating the intention is akin to defining the problem.

Let’s return to the analogy of throwing a party. That’s the intention. Exploring the problem space begins with asking questions: Do we need a party? What kind of party? Who is it for? Why are we having a party?

All of that may be a buzz-kill for something that is supposed to be fun, but the question is: how do you know it will be fun for the people you are inviting if you don’t know what they consider to be fun?

Well, that’s easy, you may respond: I would have fun at such-and-such a party, so I know my friends would too! Or, We had a great party last year and everyone had a great time, so let’s do that again—it will be fun!

Those responses illustrate a key set of assumptions:

  • What I consider to be fun I think my guests will consider to be fun as well. (Or, restated: my guests are like me, so I can predict what will be fun for them.)
  • I know the party we had before was fun, so it will be fun again.

And those may be true, especially if you’re intimately familiar with your guests (if they’re your friends, let’s hope so!) and you’ve listened to their comments about last year’s soiree.

But back to the point: just restating the intention (“Let’s have a party!”) into a problem statement (“We need to throw a party!”) is not the same as exploring the problem space itself.

Exploring a problem space for something like a party may be overkill, or it may be something you do so quickly in your head it’s never sketched out. But for other endeavors, involving risks to property, capital or lives, exploration is absolutely necessary. Yet, in many such high-risk endeavors, like new product development, problem-space exploration is limited to the right-hand side, the convergent half, of the left diamond.

And what about those assumptions? What if you are throwing a high-stakes party for people with whom you aren’t very familiar? What if these prospective guests have a very different definition of fun from yours?

Presumptive Design is an extremely light-weight (meaning, fast, low-cost and easy to execute) process to shine a light on the left-hand side of the left-hand diamond: the divergent part of the problem space. Specifically, it reveals your assumptions about the problem and it validates them with your target audiences.

Contact us to learn how Presumptive Design lightens your efforts exploring the problem-space, or buy the book!