Problem prioritisation

Efficiency is doing the things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.

— Peter Drucker

The Problem Framing provides a broad view with a variety of different perspectives on the problem or the opportunity for everyone involved in the process. The objective of the step of Problem Prioritisation is to narrow down the information, prioritise them and formulate a precise and concrete Problem Statement. It might be framed in a “How Might We”-Question. The goal is to create questions that provoke meaningful and relevant ideas. Therefore, the questions need to be insightful and nuanced. From these questions, one or more challenges can be derived for the following ideation step.

Ideally, the problem framing, has left the innovator with a lot of available data on problems, subproblems, relations, correlations and opportunities. The bigger the input the more the innovation process could be in danger from two threats:

Trying to solve too many problems simultaneously

Regarding issues with little value


How to Prioritise

To be effective, it is essential to reduce the Problem Space and focus only on the relevant aspects. A solution trying to address too many problems at the same time might prove to be too complex to develop. Nat Greene, author of „Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem-Solvers“ points out that it is crucial to understand that prioritising is about to choose which problems not to solve actively. That means it is necessary to identify the issues (or, in this case, opportunities), which seem to have the highest value. Therefore it might be required to dig even deeper into the information gathered and probably add further data points. Nat Greene emphasis that decisions about the importance and the prioritisation need to be data-driven, relying on the available facts. Many different methods and tools are available to help with the prioritisation, ranging from the Eisenhower Matrix to the Opportunity Radar. Only the problems and opportunities with the highest value remain after prioritisation.

Phrasing the Challenges

Each of these problems need to be laid out in a statement. According to American inventor Charles Kettering (who holds 186 patents, so he knew), „A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.“ Formulating clear and concrete problem statements is vital for getting to the heart of each problem or opportunity and using it for communication and decision making. It forces the innovator to get to the roots of the issues and opportunities. Otherwise, it is tough to provide the necessary transparency and clarifications to other decision-makers and readers. The statement needs to focus on the undesired current state, for example, by answering the five Ws and the H (What, Who, When, Where, Why, and How), and the desired future state as well as the gap.

The Problem Statement could also be referred to as the Challenge Statement. The Challenge Statements the innovator formulates are the foundation for the following Ideation step.