Why problem framing is so important

Humans tend to think of solutions to problems very quickly without exploring the problem as broadly as possible. “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes on the problem and five minutes on the solution,” Albert Einstein is reported to have said. The benefit of differentiated problem analysis is to discover relevant gaps in the perception of the problems. Without a proper breakdown of the problem, they could remain hidden (beneath the surface and jeopardize subsequent activities).  

The great challenge of Problem Framing is to achieve the highest possible degree of certainty to solve the right problem. The aim is to define a problem so that the solution built upon  satisfies many diverse individuals’ requirements. This is the key to achieving the broadest possible acceptance among the intended user groups. For a successful implementation of an idea, it is crucial to cover the problem as differentiated as possible so that the solution builds upon does not miss the target.

Good to know!

Ideas often arise from particular issues and are connected with distinct interests or also special competencies. Those competencies or interests are often the initial triggers for considering how they can be deployed, especially to solve an already perceivable problem. Often people are concentrating their attention on the use of these competencies. Since they are then central drivers for implementing ideas, this can lead to other relevant content being pushed into the background. For example, focusing only on a technical solution’s continuous improvement from a technical infatuation increases the risk of inefficiencies or failure. Outstanding technical expertise ensures that a functionally, highly efficient solution matures to increasing perfection. This can be accompanied by the risk of developing a solution past the actual need. However, if the problem itself does not receive the appropriate attention, it could severely reduce the chances of establishing the idea or solution and getting the desired market’s positive resonance. It means to do everything conceivable and possible to reduce the potential error rates to a minimum early on. Thus, the objective of Problem Framing is the foundation of all successful innovations to regard the problems from as many perspectives as possible. It is an obligation for every innovator to take all necessary measures to limit the number of pitfalls early on. 


How to frame problems properly

Problem framing is the essential first phase of the widely used Double Diamond Model. The objective is to open up our imaginative world with a divergent mindset. In this way, it is about developing the broadest possible view of the problem at hand. This will be the basis of all designing steps ahead. 

As described in another article, various models for divergent thinking exist. Most important, it is to think deeply and, therefore, to ask the right questions. 


Some practical insights

To bring some more practical insights, you might want to have a look at our example: A real estate manager’s bank account shows the most diverse booking records for different payment transactions. The resulting data volumes could, for example, be used for further operational processes, for example, to create the operating cost accounts for the different residential units. A solution, imaginable as an app that analyzes the payment data and then uses it for the statement’s automated creation, could be the obvious solution. But broadening the perspective to other possible applications could widen the problem area. For example, another approach could be to use the data for other operational tasks, e.g., for the automated creation of tax statements. The original perspective of the problem is thus expanded through a change of perspective.


Ask the right questions

Formulating various questions to develop the desired open mindset right initially helps develop a concrete understanding of when or in which context the problem occurs. To ask the following questions provides valuable insights and contributes to a good start into the problem framing:

The answers to all those questions bring value to your framing problem. Think of even more questions to access the problem from different frames. Every question you can think of to help get a new perspective will assist in getting to the real problem.

Various methods and techniques can often be carried out very easily with templates’ backing to support the problem framing phase in practice. Our Tools & Methods section presents a selection such as the problem statement canvas or the storyboard.