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Defining the Problem - the Critical Step to Realizing Opportunities

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Essay title: Defining the Problem - the Critical Step to Realizing Opportunities

Defining the Problem:The Critical Step to

Realizing Opportunities


June Maul, EdD

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

—Albert Einstein

Defining the Right Problem the Right Way

Defining the right problem the right way is both the most difficult and the most critical step in problem solving. One can go through a comprehensive problem-solving process, including generating a complete set of goals to use for evaluation, generating a broad set of alternatives, identifying and assessing risks, and carefully evaluating alternatives against the goals, and yet not effectively solve the problem or realize potential opportunities. If the right problem or opportunity has not been identified, the best solutions cannot be identified. And if the problem has not been stated in a way that enables one to identify a solution, it may not get solved at all.

Guideline for Developing a Problem or Opportunity Statement

Developing a problem statement that will enable a leader to create value requires patience, energy, and focus. And it will take time. There are five simple guidelines that can help you define the right problem the right way. These guidelines are described below, and the use of these guidelines is illustrated in a simple scenario that follows.

1. Scan the Environment Thoroughly with the Intent to Move Forward and Create Value: Before you write the problem statement for any business or personal scenario or situation, scan the internal and external environments to get a complete understanding of the situation. Once a leader understands the environments, his or her role is to identify the challenges and opportunities that should be assessed and addressed. It is this process of scanning in order to identify the opportunities and challenges to be addressed that enables a business or an organization or a person to move forward and ensure success. This focus is a key step that enables leaders to grow their business and continue to add value to all key stakeholders, including customers, shareholders, and employees.

2. Turn Problems into Opportunities: Although we talk about problem solving, a better term may be opportunity realization. It is a lot easier to identify the problems or challenges in any situation than it is to identify the opportunities. However, problems often have very narrow solutions and seldom consider the future or create significant value. By scanning the entire environment and focusing on defining opportunities, rather than just challenges or problems,

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