First, articulate the problem

Much time and effort goes into solving the wrong problems. As the Cheshire Cat told Alice when she sought directions without knowing where she wished to go, “you’re sure to (get SOMEWHERE) if you only walk long enough”. Far better to know your destination before you start. “If I had an hour to save the world, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions,” Albert Einstein is reported to have said. He was not alone in emphasising the skills of identifying and framing issues, a critical element of innovation. “An organisation’s ability to change (ie innovate) hinges on its ability to identify and solve challenges,” says innovation author and speaker, Steven Shapiro. “The ‘meta-challenge’ for all organisations is to find which challenges, if solved and implemented, will create the greatest value.” Whether you call them problems, issues or challenges is irrelevant, Shapiro adds. “Most companies spend 60 minutes of their time finding solutions to problems that just don’t matter…Therefore, the first step in creating a culture of innovation is to surface, identify, and codify challenges.” As well as wasting time and resources, solving the wrong issue can give you a false sense of security and allow the root problem to deteriorate further. To pinpoint the problem, creativity blogger Paul Williams suggests emulating curious children. “An effective way to dig down to the root cause… is to ask a series of ‘why?’ questions,” he advises. “Ask ‘why?’ or ‘why might this be occurring?’ about the challenge, and then again for each of your responses. These rounds of questioning dig under the surface to reveal root issues.”

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