Picking problems

You can’t solve a problem you aren’t willing to have.

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

I know of a workplace a person close to me work at. They are essentially supposed to perform innovation and the staff are trained in design thinking. And yet the struggles of the staff there are unthinkable.

They spend some time hunting around for problem statements. And I think one of the biggest challenge is that they spend more time choosing the problems to solve rather than trying to deeply characterise them. As a result, they had a cohort of staff spending a lot of time and resources on problems which eventually appeared to be unsolvable. That then led on to the management trying to steer the team towards scoping down problems to smaller, manageable types.

What started out as a culture that was supposed to be more candid, fun and open became full of tension and sensitivity. People were afraid to voice real problems; and elephants started to appear in rooms, chats, and zooms. Issues were being skirted around. Indeed, if one is unwilling to have a particular problem, one will never be able to solve it.