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28 OPINION

18 APRIL 2013
REGIONSBUSINESS.COM

Focus First On Framing,


Not Solving, the Problem
T
he real added-value in busi- as a pain point can be converted
ness today is in problem- into a gain point. These examples
framing; not in problem- also reiterate what Henry Ford
solving. Knowing how to ask the said almost 100 years ago: If I
right question from the outset is had asked my customer what they
critical. Problem solving has, in wanted, they would have said a
many ways, become a commodity faster horse- not a hunk of metal
activity. Problem framing is at the that is mechanized, motorized
root of the more creative insight Problem framing is at and propels through space on four
which leads to innovation. wheels. Sometimes your user cant
Daniel Pink made this similar
the root of the more articulate the need. Thus, weve
Natalie W. Nixon, got to find ways to get beyond the
Ph.D., is director of the
point when he spoke last month creative insight which
at an Arts and Business Council SWOT analysis, and beyond the
Strategic Design MBA at event at World Caf Live, while leads to innovation. focus group, to get to the next big
Philadelphia University. explaining the salient messages idea- and to gain insight on whats
Learn more at philau.edu/ from his newest book To Sell Is already been developed. More
strategicdesignmba. Human. So many businesses user centered, qualitative research
plunge ahead, merrily continuing methods as found in design think-
to sell products and services that ing have to be used in tandem with
they assume still resonate with more linear, analytical processes.
their end user in a meaningful Design thinking applies the problem
way. In fact, often the end user solving process that designers use-
has adapted the product or ser- variations of observation, ideation,
vice to better align with their real MRGREEN
prototyping, testing the prototype,
needs- not the perceived needs and then reiterating- and applies it
that are part of the companys to marketing strategies, financial
early stage product or services operations, service delivery and
Hambrose, CEO of Electronic Ink here in
launch. management.
Philly. Harold recently was on the Phila-
Ill give you two examples, the first Design thinking, a user centered problem
delphia University campus speaking to
shared by a Proctor & Gamble associ- framing and problem solving methodology,
students about what he calls the human
ate. Proctor and Gamble conducted a is scalable (it can be applied in a weeks
truth- that which lies between the abstract
focus group asking customers around the time and in a years time) and it can be
business process and the technology
table about a laundry detergent. Everyone expanded in terms of scope (to products
solution. Highlights from his talk only
around the table sang the detergents and to services).
reinforced this notion that framing the
praises, and said that the detergent was So how do you ask the better questions,
problem is just as, if not more, important
great, that they loved it, and there were no and frame the better problem, to begin
than the problem solving process. He
problems with it. One P&G associate asked to hone in on interesting opportunities?
gave an example of working with a client,
if someone in the group would be willing In other words, how do you turn pain
a call center in India, where the outcome
to let her observe them at home doing their points into gain points? An integrative
of deep and systematic observation was
laundry. When the P&G associate visited approach is key. In the Strategic Design
a technological solution that helped to
the customer in their home, in the intimacy MBA at Philadelphia University, we like to
redesign how employees worked. The
of their laundry space, what they discov- say that we teach you how to integrate the
call center employees were redirected to
ered was a bit astonishing. The customer analytical intelligence of business with the
engage in open-sourcing, by posting and
had tied a piece of string with a paper clip creative intelligence of design to get to the
commenting on one anothers ideas to
attached to the end, and used the contrap- innovative insight. This isnt an MBA for
troubleshoot kinks in the system. Elec-
tion to nudge open the metal tab on the designers although design is in the name,
tronic Ink redirected work flow processes,
box of detergent. The user had adapted our first cohort has people from a range
so that employees essentially showed up
CONTRIBUTE the design of the box to suit her needs. of backgrounds and sectors including
to a gaming environment every day. The
Now although this example is about a product management, textile marketing,
Send comments, letters lesson here is that your internal front line
product, the lessons from it can be applied industrial design, insurance, social work
and essays to feedback@ team, often has the solution to your service
to services, experiences and processes. The and engineering. Short of enrolling in our
regionsbusiness.com. delivery problems and there are ways to
main lesson is that your customer does not program, start with having empathy for
Opinions expressed by get their buy-in to ask new questions, and
always know how to articulate the latent your user! Begin to simply ask, and not
guest writers do not therefore frame new problems.
need. assume, if what you are making & selling is
necessarily reflect those The Electronic Ink and Proctor & Gamble
The second example comes from Harold solving the problem you think it is solving.
of Regions Business. stories both point out that what starts out