Making problems a little easier to solve


Problems, problems, problems. Love em. Made my career. I like finding them, I love solving them and it's great to know you're helping people. I've spent years looking at problems in the same way and found they're often repetitive and contextually very similar to each other. I'll identify a goal and create the steps to reach it successfully, then I find that each step pretty much always has it's own problem. Over the last few months, I've looked at a way to formalise my approach, and have created something I call 'problem theming'.

It's super-simple, bigger-picture thinking
Problem theming is a way of visualising the steps needed to reach a goal. It helps you identify and map-out all the problems that occur at each step, so you can see how everything works together and address each problem individually or as a 'theme'.

It takes any solution that's imagined or internalised, and externalises it by making you collaborate with others to find problems. It's conversational, contextual and more tedious writing or assuming people can read minds! It shows you the reality of each problem and the investment needed to achieve your goal.

That's, though?
Creating a problem theme is really easy. Essentially, you draw out a simple, single-direction flow chart in a column with a 'goal' at the end. This column is called the 'ideal path' and visualises the best possible route toward reaching a goal. The route consists of 'steps', represented as questions (in a diamond shape) with yes and no answers coming off them. 

When a question is answered positively, we get closer to the goal. When the question is answered negatively, we move off the ideal path into a second column called the the 'problem path'. In the example above 'Kn', 'Ex', 'Re' and 'Un' are noted with a number beneath them. They show whether something is known, expected, researchable or unknown, how many problems relate to them and ultimately what the theme of the problem is. Visually, you can see whether things can't be, won't be or aren't done and even the scale of problems that are affected by the original goal!

I'll go in to this in more detail in another post, so feel free to put it to use and see how it can help with your next project!
Thanks for reading


Neil Menday