Unfortunately, too often when I ask a team prior to a brainstorm what problem they’re trying to solve, they say there isn’t a problem. Or, they aren’t sure if there’s a problem. Or, they don’t agree on the problem.
<sigh> That’s a problem.
I believe part of the problem is the word ‘problem.’ The word suggests negativity, distractions and wasted resources.
People think problems are severe. A problem is destructive, catastrophic. Things will go from bad to horrible. Unfortunately a common reaction is to ignore the problem, hoping that it’ll go away. Too bad they don’t remember that creativity – or more specifically, ideas – make problems go away.
Instead, let me offer a different definition which suits creativity. A problem is a less than ideal state. A problem states the gap between today (the current) and the ideal (the desired state). The problem prevents you from achieving your goal. It’s a situation needing resolution.
Problems falls into five different categories.
Societal – A vast number of people believe or broadly understand the problem, such as when you are trying to convince a nation to support a law or regulation.
Cultural – The problem is only shared by a defined group of people, such as a demographic group or an internal team.
Experiential – The problem reflects one’s collective history and experiences with a company, its brand or product. My ongoing frustrations with Microsoft for example make me a fan of Apple products.
Situational – The problem is specific to a single situation or event, such as the launch (or re-launch) of a product, or the negotiations between business and unions during a strike.
Perceptual – The problem is perceived. There is little tangible evidence, and sometimes based more on emotion than fact. ‘Perceptions are real,’ said one of my career mentors, ‘but not necessarily true.”
To enable the most effective brainstorming, you need to do two things.
- Articulate the problem both precisely and concisely, in context between the current situation and the ideal state (which is also your goal).
- Better understand the problem, your research needs to uncover an insight.
When you have these things, you have a powerful recipe for creativity.
Purpose + Stimulus = New Idea
How do you define problems to help inspire creativity?