Solve the Right Problem

by Roger Firestien with Cher Ravenell

Albert Einstein was once asked, “If some imminent disaster threatened the world and you had one hour in which you knew you could save it, how would you spend your time?”

Einstein replied, “I would spend the first fifty-five minutes identifying the problem and the last five minutes solving it. For the formulation of a problem is often far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.”

Keep this in mind: The wording you use to describe a problem will determine how you will solve that problem. How do you explore the problem space to be sure you find the best definition of your problem? Language. In Creative Problem Solving it is all about how you phrase your problem.

Consider the following two statements:

“We don’t have enough money.”
“It’s too expensive.”

These two statements block your thinking. They send messages to your brain that there isn’t a way to solve the problem.

Now consider the following two questions:

“How might we raise the money?”
“How might we reduce the cost?”

By comparison, these two questions open your mind to look for possible solutions to the problem. They provoke ideas that could solve your problem.

It is all about how you phrase your problem. Yes, it is true; people associate creativity with brainstorming and generating massive amounts of ideas. However, in my 35 years of experience, clarifying your problem is as important or EVEN MORE important than generating all those great ideas. It does absolutely no good to generate ideas for solving the wrong problem.

My suggestion: spend time generating a variety of different ways to define your problem first. The process is the same for clarifying your problem as it is for producing ideas. Just as you generate all those creative ideas for solving a problem using a technique like brainstorming; you can also brainstorm plenty of different ways to define a problem.

Give it a try. Next time you need to solve a tough problem, back up a step. Don’t rush to solve that problem. Instead, generate at least 10 to 15 different ways of restating the problem. Turn your problem into a question. Begin your statements with the phrase, “How to …” or “How might….” Once you have generated a variety of ways to redefine your problem, take a look at the new questions. Only then should you select the best definition of the problem on which to generate ideas.

Trust my 38 years of experience in this business. It is worth the extra time to identify the correct problem. It will pay great dividends when you find that the ideas you generate are right on target.

Think about it—if it was good enough for Einstein, it will definitely work for you.


Innovation brings #BigData and Fashion together

by Mónica De Salazar

It was a matter of time until #bigdata went further into people’s lives as in giving something back to them (more than it does today, at least in a visible way).

This new innovative articulation joins data with fashion in a new concept called #CodedCouture, which is supposed to be a digital platform that keeps track on your activities and lifestyle to create a personalized and unique dress, specially designed for you.

In this idea, the innovation may not come from the idea of making this (kind-of) natural match, as pretty much all data science is useful for a number of industries and applications, but on how the implementation is driven. And as you may know, frequently innovation is the implementation of a good idea taken to life.

As most of the times, this kind of breakthroughs begins with one of Creative Problem Solvers favourite questions: How might we…? In this case the creators of Coded Couture may have though: How can we create personalized fashion for mobile data?

Welcome to the future of fashion through #CreativeProblemSolving and Innovation!


Is there a better timing for product innovation?

by Monica De Salzar

A lot of companies and organizations have interest in innovation since the markets are changing quickly and new competitors are appearing constantly. There is also a growing interest on disruption to go towards innovation and a larger marketshare.

Now, is there a better answer? As in different topics, there is no right answer because a good thing to do would be to evaluate and treat each case on an individual basis, where different elements might make big differences between brands, companies, similar products, and even products in the same company!

When it comes to timing (this scheme shows the different moments of a market development and how a trend appears, takes off, gets to its highest peak and begins to decline), a company / organization should always be aware of these stages and how to address each one from where they are. In this perspective the need for innovation, as in disruption versus continuous improvement can be different from case to case.

This means that you can be innovative at all times, because to innovate is to implement the creative process in a successful and useful way for the product, its market, and of course the company / organization.

In order to find out what the best product strategy is depending on how mature a market is, benchmarks and market data are always helpful tools along with #CreativeProblemSolving as part of continuous optimization and search for new user insights.

If you or your company are looking forward to innovate, there is never a better time but there can be better ways to do it, and Creativity is one the most valuable tools to do it.


Your GPS already does Creative Problem Solving… and you?

by Mónica De Salazar

Today, a lot of people uses GPS apps on their mobile phones to get to places. It’s easy to follow, it usually shows you routes and how traffic is in every option, tells you where to turn and even if you lose track of a certain turn, it re-routes and gives you a new option.

The logic within a navigation system has certain similarities with the Creative Problem Solving (CPS) and its stages, and it will help us to explain part of what’s inside the Creativity Certificate. Pretty much you can become a GPS System but for all sorts of challenges.

First things first; you need to introduce the address or place where you wish to go. It is very difficult (not to say impossible) to use a GPS system if you don’t know where you wish to go. Being creative on this, if you don’t know the exact place where you’re going, at least you might need to introduce a reference so it can take you there, and from that point you might need to find the way yourself. Being say this, you always need a direction first. In CPS, this is the Clarification stage. We are assuming that when you turn on your GPS you have already gone through the Evaluation of the Situation stage, and you know what is happening in your life or day so that you decided to jump into your car.

The thing about Clarification is that you have already envisioned the place where you wish to go, but you might be overlooking possible traffic issues as blocks, deviations and more, which can become challenges at the moment you’re in route.

Once the address is set the GPS system moves into its version of the Ideation stage, that in this case is looking at the map and finding possibilities of routes to follow. The system certainly does not brainstorm on options, but it does connect the available streets and highways to see how they match best. Then it gives you straightforward routes that might be slow, gives you routes through tolls that you will need to pay, options of longer routes but with less traffic.

Then comes the Implementation stage, were the route is marked in a color and you have a general plan on how to get from point A to point B, as well as a Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA). This is similar to what happens when we are planning for a prototype, since we have a general vision of how it might function if all the conditions are helpful but of course, you can never have a perfect plan because things and new challenges might appear on the way. After introducing the address or direction you wish to go, getting the best available route and seeing the panoramic view of it, you’re ready to roll. Happens with GPS and with challenges to be addressed through a CPS process; getting the route and where the turns are doesn’t mean you are already there. This is the reason why Implementation is so important, along with Stakeholder Analysis, flexibility to re-route and find new options if needed, but never forgetting what the vision is, what the desired destination is…

It is curious how a system can have a similar logical configuration to how CPS works. Of course there are big differences from this to how a complete CPS process works, what the results can be and the approach, but a navigation system is an interesting example of how were are close to this logic process everyday and the good results it gives us most of the time. Now, how would you like to be more of a GPS System when a challenge appears for your company, team, organization, family or for yourself… always being able to envision where you want to go, finding always viable options to go there nd being able to make plans with the exact twists and turns to get you there even if something comes up along the way? This is what CPS is all about, getting you where you wish to be and even further.


¿Cuál es el desafío en realidad?

Por Mónica De Salazar

En frecuentes ocasiones la implementación de soluciones que parecen tener todo el potencial de ser altamente resolutivas o con gran capacidad de impacto quedan solo como acciones interesantes pero que termina por tener poca o nula trascendencia.

En dichos casos, un pensamiento recurrente es: ¿Cómo habrán llegado a esta solución?

Por supuesto que también se cuestiona su efectividad, planeación y muchas cosas más. Desde la perspectiva del #CreativeProblemSolving, una pregunta relevante podría ser: ¿Cuál fue el desafío a resolver?

Una pregunta como esta tiene gran trascendencia ya que en más de una ocasión el hecho de que las soluciones generadas e implementadas en el día a día no funcionen como se esperaría, depende en gran parte de la claridad con la que se logre definir en sí cuál es el reto, desafío o problema en cuestión.

En un ejemplo sencillo: ¿Por qué alguien te traería un tenedor para comer una sopa? El problema no es el tenedor, sino que no atiende a la necesidad ya sea porque no se detalló de qué tipo de comida se estaba hablando o porque no se preguntó qué tipo de utensilio se requería.

Dentro de la metodología de #CreativeProblemSolving es fundamental conocer cuál es verdaderamente el reto, (independientemente de que en caso de ser varios concatenados se puedan resolver de manera individual y escalada) ya que dicha claridad permite hacer una correcta exploración, definición y llevar a cabo los pasos correctos para asegurar no solo que el reto sea solventado, sino que la solución en cuestión tenga el óptimo rendimiento.

Con frecuencia, organizaciones donde el perfil implementador de Foursight Thinking es muy potente, es común que la etapa de clarificación quede de lado o tenga algunos puntos ciegos, por lo cual invertir el tiempo suficiente evaluando y conociendo la situación es fundamental para el logro de mejores resultados.

¿De qué manera consigues que en tu equipo u organización se logre máxima claridad de los retos?