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Seven ideas to make sure you solve the right problem

Generally speaking, you loathe problems as much as you love solutions. And that’s no surprise: who, after all, wouldn’t prefer to plan for a sunny future rather than dwell on an unsatisfactory present? But that could mean ignoring the cognitive biases that not only interfere with the way we assess problems but also send us down the wrong path. You can avoid falling for poor solutions by understanding the real root of your problems.

Thinking about the future and finding solutions to current concerns is like answering a math test: you have no chance of getting it right until you’ve understood all the terms of the problem. Analyzing a tricky issue means taking into account all the factors that may have contributed to its emergence, including previous events, external stakeholders and contextual information. And sometimes you need to do more than formulate a problem correctly to come up with the right answer. In fact, it’s just as important to look for inspiration elsewhere, in a situation where the problem did not occur, for example, or from others who have experienced a similar challenge.

Frame the terms of your problem … 

“If there’s no solution, it’s because there is no problem” was a favorite saying of the Shadoks, bird-like creatures that starred in a popular animated French television series. But author Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg suggests something slightly different: if you don’t have a good solution, it may be because you don’t have the right problem.

Excerpt from Business Digest N°306, May 2020

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Françoise Tollet
Published by Françoise Tollet
She spent 12 years in industry, working for Bolloré Technologies, among others. She co-founded Business Digest in 1992 and has been running the company since 1998. And she took the Internet plunge in 1996, even before coming on board as part of the BD team.