Opening the box – before solving a problem we need to understand

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I assume that you do have an idea on how to open the box, don’t you?
But have you asked also why? Why you should open it?

According to many publications and articles it seems that innovation and being creative aims mainly to find solutions. We need to find solutions for social needs, for growing demographic problems, for environmental issues, for health problems and many more … That’s why we are focusing that much on finding … solutions. The thinking on how to solve problems is growing everywhere. Just have a look at technical solutions: The incredible high number of apps, the uncountable mass of new services and website ideas are really impressive. Or search for business ideas in Google. You will find hundreds of thousands…

But somehow it feels wrong. Often solutions are not really solving our basic problems. They are just like a drop of water on fire, just solve the very obvious, superficial problem, the problem we recognize at a glance.

Reading through the ‘Design for public good report’ this morning I came across this statement:

A designer addresses development by “looking for a problem – not a solution”There is only one problem, but there are many solutions. Because of the amount of competition and the pressure on finances and resources, we don’t have time for mistakes. It is both efficient and risk reducing to identify the problem before developing the solutions.”
– David Fellah, CEO main markets, Designit

So, it might be worth to go more in depth and analyzing what is the real problem we need to solve before we are becoming innovative and find solutions, isn’t it?

Asking why and why again leads to the original problem
I mean an apparent problem might be already the consequence of another problem which by itself can be the consequence of a still deeper one. If we solve just the first, we will not automatically have solved the original problem.
If we think there is too much traffic in the cities and we build new streets then this is a short term solution. If we ask why there is so much traffic, we will find out that there is huge need to go from A to Z. If we ask why people need to move so often we will find a lot of reasons behind.

We need to make problems tangible through direct observation, visualisation and start to build prototypes. It is about rendering these things, which can seem so intangible and therefore so difficult to approach and only then start to be creative and innovative. Making it concrete, clear and easily intelligible to a wide variety of stakeholders.

So, imagine we would just solve one of the original problems instead of finding solutions for the apparent one… Then, probably, we would be much more successful.

What do you think?

Related material

Design for Public Good, a new report for the European Commission

April 2013

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