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Problem framing as a design technique
Rupert Platz / r000pert / #designtoalign / April 30, 2015
„Theproblemiswedon‘t
under...
Myfirst„aha“moment:
ThePaulMcCreadyStory
2
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Vis_aerienne_Luc_Viatour.jpg
pictures.propdesigner.co.uk
uxmag.com/arti...
Paul McCready:
“The problem is we don’t understand the problem”
Wrong problem: How do we build a plane that will fly aroun...
1977:
McCreadys plane flies and wins the prize
http://uxmag.com/articles/you-are-solving-the-wrong-problem
pictures.propde...
Mysecond„aha“moment:
WillEvans‘4Wsmethod
6
Figuring out the key problem together by aswering the who, what,
where and why
Collective Problem Framing in Lean Product ...
„Aproblemwellstated
isaproblemhalfsolved.“
Charles Kettering (1876-1958)
8
Butaren‘tweoftenrushingby
the problemtoofast?
9
https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshkemble/4885545985
Isn‘t the problem self-evident? Let‘s go tackle it.
lickr.com/photos/elkcat/8173044415
Isn‘t design all about solving – being creative and
having ideas?
Beware of analysis paralysis.
freese.com/blog/feedback-and-fishbones-solve-fort-worth-drainage-review-concerns
And … who likes problems anyway?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/11325321@N08/6822409862
me <3
Threereasonstocareforthat
pooruglymonster
14
(andtakethetimetoframe
theproblemtogether):
#1 Avoiding to design the perfect, yet wrong thing.
necrophone.com/2014/02/15/yes-you-can-sell-ice-to-eskimos-part-i/
Extrinsic / defensive
motivation:
„Something is going wrong.
How can we fix it again?“
#2 Discovering problems can point t...
#3 Turn isolated assumptions into a common
commitment.
flickr.com/photos/atheism_christian_apologetics/11078762214
Howcanproblemframingfit
inthedesignprocess?
18
Complex Complicated
Chaotic Obvious
Complex
Unknown unknowns:
Experiment to determine the problem &
solve it
Complicated
T...
We‘ve gone from classic one-way-waterfall …
Define the
problem
to solve
Define the
solution
to implement
Execute
Open
idea...
… to validating and iterating our solutions.
Define the
problem
to solve
Define the
solution
to validate
Validate,decide:
...
But problems are a part of the design process, and
should be validated as well.
Define the
problem
to validate
Define the
...
In the process, be ready to change both.
Open
problem
space
Narrow
down
Open
idea
space
Narrow
down
Someappropriatesituations
forstartingtolookatthe
problemmoreclosely.
24
• Verbalize unspoken thoughts and assumptions of stakeholders
• Create shared understanding of the issue
Gather assumption...
Evaluate potentially
relevant problems
Example #2: Insights galore, key problem needed
„We need the right focus to get our...
Example #3: Step back to revise a planned solution
„So we‘ll have a social intranet platform – but what for actually?“
Rev...
Example #4: A known problem needs re-framing
„How do we build a better mp3 player?“
Prioritize,
sharpen
• Take the problem...
Whatcanagoodproblem
statementlooklike?
29
It should answer the 4 Ws:
Who What
Where Why
Who What
Where Why
WHO is having the problem?
Who
• Who are the „customers“ – the ones having the
problem and benefitting ...
Who What
Where Why
WHAT is the nature of the problem?
What
• Are you sure it‘s a problem?
• Is it a task or a need?
• Is i...
Who What
Where Why
• In which context / situation do your „customers“
experience the problem?
• Have you observed the prob...
Who What
Where Why
• Is it acute enough to put other problems aside?
(impact, frequency, …?)
• What would be the key value...
Who What
Where Why
• Is it promising enough to put other problems
aside?
• What would be the key value for us to solve it?...
A simple Problem Statement template:
Who
What
Where
Why #1
Why #2
[customer segment, persona]
[issue, task, need, „job“]
[...
Here‘s an example …:
flickr.com/photos/jump4joy/2940124563/
A possible Problem Statement:
Who
What
Where
Why #1
Why #2
long distance family holiday
passengers
they have to spend a hi...
This helps pave the way for a good Solution Statement:
Family relaxation rooms for rent with
wake up service
staying in th...
Dos&Don‘tsforactionable
problemstatements
40
Name causes, not symptoms.
Who
What
help desk staff
support calls take too long.have the problem that
Our
they lose time s...
A lack of solution X is not the real problem.
Who
What
help desk staff
there is no unified search
across our CRM systems
h...
Don‘t take goals and targets for design problems.
Who
What
recruiting department
they need to raise successful
senior staf...
Avoid wishful thinking from inside the building.
Whofemale fashion customers
there is no convenient way to
stay informed a...
Don‘t blame.
Whoservice suppliers
our IT have implemented a
new, inadequate purchasing
platform that won ‘t work.
have the...
Be specific and avoid industry buzzwords.
Who
What
teenage usersOur
they miss delightful
experiences that match their
digi...
Keep it short.
Whocarrier clients
although appropiate
measures had been taken by
BHCL in alignment with the
KC5 programme ...
Howyoucanruna4Ws
ProblemFramingWorkshop
48
Adapted from Will Evans, lean.org/LeanPost/Posting.cfm?LeanPostId=260
• Take 8 to 24 people for 1 to 3 hours
• Mix disciples and divide into teams no larger than 4
• Have a neutral designer-fa...
• What‘s our goal today?
• What is the known problem scope?
• What are our targets / strategy / brand values?
• What do we...
Why #1
Why #2
• Examine each quadrant
& write two post-its for each
• Present & discuss within
your team
• Start the conve...
• Use the problem statement
template card
• Read them to the rest of the
team & have the others vote
• The strongest one o...
• Present your team problem
statements to the others
• Critique and question
• Check the problem
statements for clarity an...
• Don‘t expect immediate consensus. It‘s about voicing different
assumptions and collaborative sensemaking first.
• Don‘t ...
https://www.flickr.com/photos/11325321@N08/6822409862
So, care about your problem if …
https://www.flickr.com/photos/11325321@N08/6822409862
So, care about your problem if …
• you‘re in the „complex situation“...
Thank you and have a good flight!
flickr.com/photos/tom-margie/1429937325
twitter.com/r000pert / xing.com/profile/rupert_p...
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"The problem is we don't understand the problem": Problem Framing as a tool to align stakeholders and develop accurate design solutions

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Held April 30th at "Design to Align", DMI / Intersection15 conference for Strategic Enterprise Design, Berlin http://2015.intersectionconf.com

The purpose of design is to solve problems. Its added value is not only derived from shaping good solutions: it is equally about getting the problem right in the first place.

Often enough in practice though, gaining an accurate, shared understanding of a design problem is neglected in favour of intense involvement with potential solutions. Which can lead to situations later in the process where it turns out everyone involved has a completely different set of unspoken assumptions on the underlying issue, or you may even discover you've developing the perfect response to the wrong question.

In his talk, Rupert will outline the benefits of (re-) framing problems as a universal design technique and share practical tips for shaping precise and actionable problem statements.

Published in: Design
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"The problem is we don't understand the problem": Problem Framing as a tool to align stakeholders and develop accurate design solutions

  1. 1. Problem framing as a design technique Rupert Platz / r000pert / #designtoalign / April 30, 2015 „Theproblemiswedon‘t understandtheproblem“
  2. 2. Myfirst„aha“moment: ThePaulMcCreadyStory 2
  3. 3. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/22/Vis_aerienne_Luc_Viatour.jpg pictures.propdesigner.co.uk uxmag.com/articles/you-are-solving-the-wrong-problem 1959: The Kremer Prize £50,000 awarded for a human-powered aircraft.
  4. 4. Paul McCready: “The problem is we don’t understand the problem” Wrong problem: How do we build a plane that will fly around the poles? Right problem: How do we build a plane that can be rebuilt quickly over and over again? pictures.propdesigner.co.uk uxmag.com/articles/you-are-solving-the-wrong-problem
  5. 5. 1977: McCreadys plane flies and wins the prize http://uxmag.com/articles/you-are-solving-the-wrong-problem pictures.propdesigner.co.uk uxmag.com/articles/you-are-solving-the-wrong-problem The Gossamer Condor: A lightweight plane that could quickly be reassembled and flewn again up to three times in a single day. The prize was won by re-framing the problem and asking the appropriate question in the first place.
  6. 6. Mysecond„aha“moment: WillEvans‘4Wsmethod 6
  7. 7. Figuring out the key problem together by aswering the who, what, where and why Collective Problem Framing in Lean Product Design lean.org/LeanPost/Posting.cfm?LeanPostId=260
  8. 8. „Aproblemwellstated isaproblemhalfsolved.“ Charles Kettering (1876-1958) 8
  9. 9. Butaren‘tweoftenrushingby the problemtoofast? 9
  10. 10. https://www.flickr.com/photos/joshkemble/4885545985 Isn‘t the problem self-evident? Let‘s go tackle it.
  11. 11. lickr.com/photos/elkcat/8173044415 Isn‘t design all about solving – being creative and having ideas?
  12. 12. Beware of analysis paralysis. freese.com/blog/feedback-and-fishbones-solve-fort-worth-drainage-review-concerns
  13. 13. And … who likes problems anyway? https://www.flickr.com/photos/11325321@N08/6822409862 me <3
  14. 14. Threereasonstocareforthat pooruglymonster 14 (andtakethetimetoframe theproblemtogether):
  15. 15. #1 Avoiding to design the perfect, yet wrong thing. necrophone.com/2014/02/15/yes-you-can-sell-ice-to-eskimos-part-i/
  16. 16. Extrinsic / defensive motivation: „Something is going wrong. How can we fix it again?“ #2 Discovering problems can point to opportunities. Intrinsic / transformative motivation: „We want to evolve and grow. How can we find a new perspective?“
  17. 17. #3 Turn isolated assumptions into a common commitment. flickr.com/photos/atheism_christian_apologetics/11078762214
  18. 18. Howcanproblemframingfit inthedesignprocess? 18
  19. 19. Complex Complicated Chaotic Obvious Complex Unknown unknowns: Experiment to determine the problem & solve it Complicated The unknowns are known Good practices exist Experts can help Chaotic Situation is out of hand Regain control first, evaluate later Obvious Problem is well understood Apply best practices Chances are you‘re in the „complex“ quadrant. (The Cynefin Framework: Situation types & their solution strategies) everydaykanban.com/2013/09/29/understanding-the-cynefin-framework/ Disorder
  20. 20. We‘ve gone from classic one-way-waterfall … Define the problem to solve Define the solution to implement Execute Open idea space Narrow down Analyze
  21. 21. … to validating and iterating our solutions. Define the problem to solve Define the solution to validate Validate,decide: Right solution? Open idea space Narrow down
  22. 22. But problems are a part of the design process, and should be validated as well. Define the problem to validate Define the solution to validate Validate, decide: Right solution? Right problem? Open problem space Narrow down Open idea space Narrow down
  23. 23. In the process, be ready to change both. Open problem space Narrow down Open idea space Narrow down
  24. 24. Someappropriatesituations forstartingtolookatthe problemmoreclosely. 24
  25. 25. • Verbalize unspoken thoughts and assumptions of stakeholders • Create shared understanding of the issue Gather assumptions and interpretations Example #1: The problem is felt, but fuzzy „Our recruiting platform is outdated.“ Make collective sense Define the key problem
  26. 26. Evaluate potentially relevant problems Example #2: Insights galore, key problem needed „We need the right focus to get our offering to the next level.“ Prioritize, sharpen • Find the problem that‘s the most promising • Know what you‘ll want to solve and why Define the key problem
  27. 27. Example #3: Step back to revise a planned solution „So we‘ll have a social intranet platform – but what for actually?“ Revise underlying problems Prioritize, sharpen • Tough, but common: Become less determined about the solution and more accurate about the problem • Be ready to revise or even dismiss the initial solution Define the key problem Revised solution Initial solution
  28. 28. Example #4: A known problem needs re-framing „How do we build a better mp3 player?“ Prioritize, sharpen • Take the problem out of its box and illuminate its context • iPod & iTunes: From „Building a new mp3 player“ to „fixing the whole experience of obtaining and enjoying digital music“ Given problem Expand / abstract the problem space Define new key problem
  29. 29. Whatcanagoodproblem statementlooklike? 29
  30. 30. It should answer the 4 Ws: Who What Where Why
  31. 31. Who What Where Why WHO is having the problem? Who • Who are the „customers“ – the ones having the problem and benefitting from its future solution? • Can you narrow them down to a segment? • What do you know about them?
  32. 32. Who What Where Why WHAT is the nature of the problem? What • Are you sure it‘s a problem? • Is it a task or a need? • Is it functional or social or emotional? • Is it openly stated or unconscious? • How do you know? Is there evidence? • Can you explain is simply?
  33. 33. Who What Where Why • In which context / situation do your „customers“ experience the problem? • Have you observed the problem in context? • Can you describe it? WHERE does the problem arise? Where
  34. 34. Who What Where Why • Is it acute enough to put other problems aside? (impact, frequency, …?) • What would be the key value for them? • How would it improve their situation (make sth. more efficient, cheap, enjoyable, reassuring, …)? WHY do you believe we should solve it? (for them) Why #1
  35. 35. Who What Where Why • Is it promising enough to put other problems aside? • What would be the key value for us to solve it? • How will it help achieve our business goals? • How does it align with our strategy / brand? WHY do you believe we should solve it? (for us) Why #2
  36. 36. A simple Problem Statement template: Who What Where Why #1 Why #2 [customer segment, persona] [issue, task, need, „job“] [context, situation]. [benefit of solution for them] [benefit of solution for us]. has the problem that when / while An ideal solution would while Our
  37. 37. Here‘s an example …: flickr.com/photos/jump4joy/2940124563/
  38. 38. A possible Problem Statement: Who What Where Why #1 Why #2 long distance family holiday passengers they have to spend a highly uncomfortable time waiting in transit lounges for delayed connecting flights. help them make the best of the wait/ arrive less exhausted creating new revenues and raising customer satisfaction. have the problem that when An ideal solution would while Our flickr.com/photos/jump4joy/2940124563/
  39. 39. This helps pave the way for a good Solution Statement: Family relaxation rooms for rent with wake up service staying in the airport hall / in an airport hotel be way more comfortable / be availiable for a shorter timespan Unlike this will Our solution: What Current solutions Difference flickr.com/photos/jump4joy/2940124563/
  40. 40. Dos&Don‘tsforactionable problemstatements 40
  41. 41. Name causes, not symptoms. Who What help desk staff support calls take too long.have the problem that Our they lose time searching through multiple databases.
  42. 42. A lack of solution X is not the real problem. Who What help desk staff there is no unified search across our CRM systems have the problem that Our they lose time searching through multiple databases.
  43. 43. Don‘t take goals and targets for design problems. Who What recruiting department they need to raise successful senior staff engagement by 10% next year. has the problem that Our long-term relationships with young management talents are lost over time. Why #2help raise successful senior staff engagement. A ideal solution would
  44. 44. Avoid wishful thinking from inside the building. Whofemale fashion customers there is no convenient way to stay informed about our latest sales offerings. have the problem that Our they feel overwhelmed with putting together their casual office outfit every morning. What
  45. 45. Don‘t blame. Whoservice suppliers our IT have implemented a new, inadequate purchasing platform that won ‘t work. have the problem that Our our new platform does not match their routine needs. What
  46. 46. Be specific and avoid industry buzzwords. Who What teenage usersOur they miss delightful experiences that match their digital lifestye aspirations. they want to keep track of up to six different social networks during class. have the problem that
  47. 47. Keep it short. Whocarrier clients although appropiate measures had been taken by BHCL in alignment with the KC5 programme and approved by KK-12, an internal study conducted in 2013 found out that carriers should be limited or excluded in cases where an event has been caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken. have the problem that Our What
  48. 48. Howyoucanruna4Ws ProblemFramingWorkshop 48 Adapted from Will Evans, lean.org/LeanPost/Posting.cfm?LeanPostId=260
  49. 49. • Take 8 to 24 people for 1 to 3 hours • Mix disciples and divide into teams no larger than 4 • Have a neutral designer-facilitator for each team Ingredients The ones to have the problem The ones to find & design the solution The ones to implement it The ones responsible for the biz outcome
  50. 50. • What‘s our goal today? • What is the known problem scope? • What are our targets / strategy / brand values? • What do we know about the „customer“? • What‘s the course of action now? Short introduction and illumination
  51. 51. Why #1 Why #2 • Examine each quadrant & write two post-its for each • Present & discuss within your team • Start the conversation so that a shared understanding emerges First round: Do the 4W individually Who What Where
  52. 52. • Use the problem statement template card • Read them to the rest of the team & have the others vote • The strongest one or two problem statements emerge from each team Second round: Write a problem statement [ ____________ ] [ ____________ ] [ ____________ ] [ ____________ ] [ ____________ ] has the problem that when / while An ideal solution would while Our Who What Where Why #1 Why #2
  53. 53. • Present your team problem statements to the others • Critique and question • Check the problem statements for clarity and coherence Third round: Feedback with the other groups
  54. 54. • Don‘t expect immediate consensus. It‘s about voicing different assumptions and collaborative sensemaking first. • Don‘t expect turnkey statements. You will still have to formulate and validate the problem yourself. • Be strict about the do‘s and don‘ts • Expecially don‘t allow solution statements and fake needs • Keep an idea pool ready to put solution ideas aside • Mix the groups well. Avoid putting multiple supporters of a certain solution in the same group Some tips & suggestions
  55. 55. https://www.flickr.com/photos/11325321@N08/6822409862 So, care about your problem if …
  56. 56. https://www.flickr.com/photos/11325321@N08/6822409862 So, care about your problem if … • you‘re in the „complex situation“ domain and the problem just isn‘t that obvious • you can‘t afford solving the wrong problem • everybody involved has different unspoken assumptions about the issue • you want to create common purpose and commitment for the solution work („culture of shared ownership“) • you want to know how to validate your solution‘s success • you are ready to experiment, learn and re-frame
  57. 57. Thank you and have a good flight! flickr.com/photos/tom-margie/1429937325 twitter.com/r000pert / xing.com/profile/rupert_platz / linkedin.com/in/rupertplatz

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