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Solve the right problem

When you have an idea about your customers, your business environment and the problem you want to address, its time to define the problem to make sure you solve the right problem. Do you know what causes the problem? Do you know the cause of the cause? If you can't get to the root of the problem your solutions might not fix the problem.

Case: Don't go to bed, you might die

This is a simple case of confusing cause and effect, which happens more than you might expect: Research shows that about 89% of the people that die annually, die in bed, while a person only spends about 1/3th or their life lying in bed. 

Looking at above statistics you might conclude that lying in bed is very bad for your health. But lying in bed is not the cause of death, but the effect of being sick. So your not dying because you lie in bed, but you are lying in your bed because you are dying.

When you define your problem, describe it in a scientific matter, including the ambient factors which have impact on the problem and define the circumstances under which the problem is worth solving. Check the definition for assumptions and beliefs and start by checking those assumptions and beliefs before you continue with the next stage of the Design Thinking Cycle.

When you are clear on the problem definition you should be able to 
define the criteria for a good product/service design. Use the Value Proposition Canvas to formulate customer groups and per customer group: Jobs to be done, desires and anxieties and required benefits, features and experience.

At the end of the Defining Phase you'll have clarity on:

  • The problem you want to solve;
    • The customer groups who's problem you want to solve;
    • Ambient factors that have impact in the problem;
    • The circumstances under which the problem is worth solving;
    • The assumptions that used to lay at the root of your problem definition;
  • Design Criteria for a new product or service.

Research process and methods:

Case: Ask why, why, why, ...

To get to the root of the problem, you need to ask why, why, why, .... A parable:

A man complains to his friend about a headache. 
Friend: why do you have a headache?
Man: I drank to much last night.
Friend: Why did you drink so much last night?
Man: my boss complained about the quality of my work.
Friend: Why did your boss complain about the quality of your work?
Man: I don't know, my work is fine, but my boss is cranky.
Friend: Why is your boss cranky?
Man: I don't know, ask my boss
Friend to boss: Why do you complain about the work of my friend?
Boss: I don't know. The work is fine, but I am a bit cranky these days.
Friend: Why are you so cranky?
Boss: My wife is nagging me all the time.
Friend: Why is your wife nagging you?
Boss: I don't know. Ask my wife?
Friend to wife: Why are you nagging your husband?
Wife of boss: Because he keeps me awake all night
Friend: Why does he keep you awake?
Wife of boss: Because he snores all the time.
Friend: Why does he snore all night?
Wife of Boss: I don't know. Since we have a new bed he won't stop snoring.

The friend inspects the bed and discovers that it's too soft for the boss, so he lies on his back which makes him snore.

So the man has a headache and the friend discovers that the root of the problem is the soft mattress of the man's boss.  
  • PLAN:
    • Orientation: formulate required outcome of this design phase
      • brainstorm
        • Strategy: formulate research strategy
          • choose methodology
          • substantiate choices
          • plan activities
        • Data gathering
          • do desk research
          • conduct interviews
        • Formulate hypothesis
          • analyse data
          • brainstorm
          • apply critical thinking
        • Test hypothesis
          • desk research
          • surveys
          • interviews
        • Adjust hypothesis when necessary and test again
          • assess information
          • apply critical thinking
          • determine actual outcome of the research process
        • Review the research process
          • review
          • reflect
          • act to adjust the general research strategy

      ndw 2014