Einstein Knows Best...We Should All Be Asking The Right Questions
Aren’t we all looking for better ways to face up to our challenges? One of the key focus points for facing any challenge is if we are finding a problem difficult to solve then we should accept that maybe we are not asking the right question.
Let’s look at an example. Let us imagine that we want to improve communications between departments. The problem statement is in effect “How can we improve communications between departments?” – Obvious, yes? No, not at all.
Have we articulated this problem correctly?
How do we know that we have articulated it correctly?
How can we better articulate the problem?
This is important because if we ask the wrong question, even slightly, we will never come to the correct answer.
There is a way we can do our best to ensure the problem statement is as accurate and meaningful as possible. We should spend some time deconstructing our problem statement and analysing what each element of it means. The best way to do this is deceptively simple and fun. We take our original problem statement and pick out the key words in it, which would possibly be in our example of “How can we improve communications between departments?” be the words:
We, Improve, Communications, Between, Departments
1. Put each of these words as the head of a column
2. For each word get a group of you to list alternative meanings. They can be as whacky as you like, the idea is to get the creative juices flowing. For example under the word ‘We’ you could list: I, Them, Staff, Employees, Managers, Bosses, Politicians, Businessmen and so forth.
3. Repeat this exercise for each of the words so you end up with 5 columns, in this case, of alternative words.
Then begin to work your way across the columns combining these different words in different ways. When you come across a combination that appeals note it down. This way you will have essentially created a number of variants on your original problem statement. It is now the group’s job to pick the statement that best expresses the problem. It may of course be the original statement but more likely it will be one of the newly created statements. For example we may derive the statement “How can I ensure information passed around is meaningful”. This puts a wholly new emphasis on what the problem you are trying to solve is. No longer are you worried about departments or communications you are now focused on meaningful information – a totally different problem to solve.