John Dewey once said "a problem well put is a problem half-solved". Evidence shows that how you frame a problem will have a direct impact on your success in solving it, and this applies across diverse domains from international development to world-class sports to defining your career path.
As designers, strategists, innovators and change agents, we are all in the business of designing better ways to solve problems and create positive change. And yet 85% of companies struggle with diagnosing and therefore framing the problem correctly. In the absence of a well-framed problem, how can we be working on the right solution? What if the success of the change you'd like to create depends wholly on how you frame it?
This week we explore problem-solving and the ways that framing a problem or message can change the outcome beyond our expectations.
5 things we learned this week:
1. Our understanding of the world's problems and the aid solutions we create to fix them are fundamentally flawed because our assumptions are stuck in the past. In fact we are more ignorant about the world than chimpanzees! Fighting this devastating ignorance with a fact-based worldview that everyone can understand, was the life's work of the legendary data scientist Hans Rosling, who sadly passed away this week. He helped people to transform their assumptions and re-frame the problem by visualising the facts. The quest for a fact-based worldview is more urgent now than ever, and his important work to remove emotion and work analytically to improve the world lives on in his agency Gapminder. Watch some of his fantastic work here.
2. Are you framing your problems wrong? 85% of businesses admit they struggle with identifying the right problem to solve. In this practical and insightful article, Harvard Business Review outlines seven practices for challenging convention and re-framing problems to get radically better results. (HBR)
3. In sports, one of the biggest obstacles to breaking a world record is not physical but mental: in the absence of evidence that it can be done, athletes apply a psychological handbrake called "programming". However once a record is broken and the number to beat is re-framed, the old record can suddenly be repeatedly beaten. How might we incorporate this knowledge into our expectations of what's possible in our work and life? (WIRED)
4. The way we frame our work has a direct correlation with how long and how well we live. Some cultures have no words for work and retirement, but instead have words for 'life purpose'. Known as 'Blue Zones', people living in these areas experience reduced risk of Alzheimers, arthritis and stroke, better health and better longevity overall. In this age of artificial intelligence threatening to take our jobs, could we ditch work in favour of life purpose and find happier, healthier lives? (Blue Zones)
5. Counter-intuitive findings from Kellogg School of Management show the practice of matching marketing messages to mindsets can sometimes backfire. In some cases we should re-frame the marketing message to mismatch the customer's mindset. This more nuanced understanding of persuasiveness—that a message’s effectiveness depends not just on whether it is related in terms of gains or losses, but also on whether it describes a pleasurable or painful event—could help companies, advertisers, and even politicians determine how to better target their messages to reach a particular audience. A reminder that humans are irrational, emotional beings after all. (Kellogg Insights)
Last month we interviewed the author of Liminal Thinking, Dave Gray. In his book, Dave explores practical ways to change the way we view the world, to better uncover and re-frame problems in order to create the change we want. For the full interview, see here.
That's all for issue #4. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe and pass on to anyone who'd be interested. You can tweet or email us with articles, events or findings you'd like to share: firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time.
"Snow and adolescence are the only problems that disappear if you ignore them long enough." – Earl Wilson