Problem Framing

When you are participating in a Design Thinking process a crucial phase is the time when your team begins to define the problem you are attempting to solve.

This method outlined by Design Kit refers to framing the problem and is a powerful process you can use to increase the quality of the problem statements you are generating.

You may already know that once we have defined the problem we move into generating ideas. This is a critical transition and one we all have a tendency to rush.

We all enjoy the energy lift and change of pace of generating and developing ideas. In fact many teams can’t help themselves and skip over the definition of the problem too quickly.

So the issue is often that we bounce too quickly onto ideation and we do not spend long enough in the problem state. Then we are left with ill defined problems – too broad, too narrow, not worthwhile, are all characteristics you might look out for when reviewing your  problem statements.

The framing and re-framing process forces us to loop back into the process of defining the problem a little longer. It slows us a little and checks our enthusiasm to rush ahead and ensures we have carefully crafted our problem statement and it is an accurate reflection of a worthwhile issue.

I have adapted some of the Design Kit steps below and have a HMW Framing template you can download here (just sign up to my newsletter to gain access)

  1. Describe the problem or issue
  2. List the stakeholders
  3. Re-frame the issue as a How Might We statement
  4. Describe the impact you are attempting to have.
  5. Who needs your help the most?
  6. What are some possible solutions to your problem?
  7. Describe the context and constraints you have to your future ideas.
  8. Re-write a different version of your original HMW statement.

Download the template here.

A clearly focused problem statement invariably yields both greater quantity and higher quality solutions (Stanford, 2011)


Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

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