Finding your focus: An approach to help explore problems

by | Feb 10, 2023 | Innovation

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When you are next faced with a problem you need to solve, whether it be a business or customer problem, make sure you consider the level, or hierarchy, at which you want to solve it. This is important because the level of the problem changes the type of solutions that you will find.

What do I mean by levels or hierarchy? This is about the level of abstraction or granularity of the problem so that:

    • The higher the level, the more abstract or broader
    • The lower the level, the more concrete or more specific


There are two simple questions you can ask yourself and your team to explore the different levels of a problem:

  • Asking SO WHAT? moves you up. This question will prompt you to consider the effects of the problem and go broader.
  • Asking WHY? moves you down. This question will prompt you to consider the cause of the problem and be more specific.
 What level do you choose?

There is no magic level.

You must find the level that aligns with your objective, scope, and capability.

When you find the right level, it will feel like it’s a problem you can tackle. It can be helpful to brainstorm different ways of expressing your problem, at different levels, and then see if you can quickly identify some solutions.

For example, imagine that you are working in the fashion industry.

Here are two levels for the same kind of problem:

    • How can we help people to look good? (higher-level)
    • How can we help people to find the right clothes that suit them and fit perfectly? (lower-level)

In this example, the higher-level problem is too high and may result in solutions that are too broad and beyond your capability, whereas the lower-level problem might be just right. 

Next time you are defining a problem, don’t forget to explore the levels that you could approach the problem.

Need help with innovating and putting this concept into practice? Contact us.

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