Framing the challenge

Innovators at all experience levels use Design Thinking. From startup entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 executives, many people are finding that their next big idea is within reach through human-centered design.

The first step of Design Thinking is simple: identify a challenge or problem. Don’t race to brainstorming yet. Before the big “ah-ha” moment, your big idea needs a reason for existence.

Albert Einstein said his best innovation came from first carefully analyzing a problem. He once famously quipped, “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution.”

Set the stage for your next big idea. Identify a gap, problem or challenge to solve. Follow these three steps to get started to frame your challenge.

Create context

Custom-tailor the challenge. It is important your challenge is neither too narrow nor too broad. When you define a problem, think of it regarding its next larger context. Set the stage appropriately.

Imagine you are working to make a better recycling bin as part of a town-wide sustainability program. Before you even find a problem to innovate, examine the recycling bin in its context for the best human-centered design. The recycling bin might be in a dining room, which is in a ranch-style house; which is in a middle-class neighborhood; which is a suburb of America’s fourth largest city. Understand where your problem rests in the greater picture of life.

Find your focus

Once you have the right context, frame the challenge in human experience. The human-focused innovation is the genius of Design Thinking.

We like to use an example developed by our friends and fellow Design Thinking experts over at ExperiencePoint. Imagine that you’re crafting a challenge statement for increased sustainability. Which one of the following example statements is best for human-centered design?

  1. Increase the town’s recycling efforts from 40 to 50 percent.
  2. Make the town the recognized green leader by solving all of its current and future environmental problems.
  3. Increase sustainable behavior among the town’s citizens.

The answer, for Design Thinking human-centered solutions, is number three. The first two challenge statements focus on the inanimate. The third choice frames a challenge around human involvement. (Reference: ExperiencePoint)

Ask the right question

Lastly, frame the challenge statement as a “How might we …” question. The words we use to describe a problem can influence our ability to solve it. Turning a challenge statement into an open-ended question positions to mind to address the problems through creativity, rather than focusing on the negative fact that a problem exists.

The “How might we …” question alludes that there are solutions. The problem isn’t hopeless.

The stage is set. You’re ready to identify a challenge to solve: Understand an issue within its greater context, focus on the human element and ask questions to find the best challenge statement.

Identifying the challenge is the first of five steps in Design Thinking. At Bridge Innovate, we believe that human-centered design will spark innovation in all aspects of your life. It’s a game changer.

To learn more, register for our March 18 workshops Design Thinking Crash Course or Design Thinking Challenge Lab. By experiencing the award-winning simulation co-created by our partners at ExperiencePoint and IDEO, you will learn the basics of human-centered design while building creative confidence.

Paul Burger