A Product R&D Toolkit

Welcome. I'm Marc and this is a Toolkit to create things.

As we move through the problem discovery phase, and through validating, design thinking encourages us to take a step back and focus on the chosen problem by looking at it from a different perspective, i.e. Reframing.

By doing this, we expand the range of solutions that are possible and set the project up well for moving in to ideation and solutions.

These tools help in the reframing mindset, enabling a new problem statement to be created with a different perspective.

Section Tools
Tool Info
Category Problem Reframing
Updated 30/08/20
Templates   PDF     Miro
Creator Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg

Understanding the theory behind Problem Reframing really helps to clarify the best approach and how this phase evolves.

Are You Solving the Right Problems? - Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg

There is a lot of commentary around Problem Reframing, but the best piece I've come across is found on Harvard Business Review, providing excellent examples and pointers as part of the approach, it is a very concise but thorough explanation - I encourage you to read it here, and I have also summarised the advised steps and process below.

What's the TL;DR?

People are bad at properly diagnosing problems, even when using frameworks that help understand the problem people will just simply go deeper in to this specific problem instead of refocusing and coming up with a different diagnosis.

Ultimately, it's not about discounting the original problem, or even invalidating it, but looking for a more interesting problem - a more valuable problem.

  • Establish legitimacy - Help everyone to understand the method before using it. This will enable a much better discussion, keeping everyone aligned and resulting in a better outcome.
  • Bring outsiders into the discussion - Encourages diverse perspectives and moves people away from falling in love with a solution, and falling in love with the problem instead.
  • Get people’s definitions in writing - By getting everyone to agree on a single problem statement, it prevents ambiguity around exactly what is being solved.
  • Ask what’s missing - Instead of focusing on what's included, take the time to understand and investigate what could be missing from the statement.
  • Consider multiple categories - Get participants to state what category of problem it is (incentive, expectations, attitude etc) and also suggest others for consensus - this is also a good example of where a diverse group helps with understanding the problem.
  • Analyse positive exceptions - Are there instances where the problem did not occur? These positive exceptions can also help uncover factors of the problem that had not been considered.
  • Question the objective - Uncovering the objectives that are causing the problem (scenario or user) by clarifying and then challenging them can help shift the objective and therefore reframe the problem.

Using a template for the Reframing process will help with consistency of thought - allowing for prompting and practice in the art of Reframing.

Changing keywords, and observing the underlying goals whilst going through this process will help generate the Reframed Problem Statement.

Tool Info
Category Problem Reframing
Updated 30/08/20
Templates   PDF     Miro
Creator Sakichi Toyoda

We started with our problems, we defined, prioritised and framed them ready for validation, now that we've validated the problem through research and user feedback we can begin to understand it further by doing a Root Cause Analysis and potentially reframe the exact problem to observe and solve from a different perspective.

An RCA takes the problem and combines the '5 whys' tool so that we can truly understand the circumstances that lead to the problem manifesting itself. By gathering multiple 'Whys' we can begin to understand the multitude of reasons for this problem manifesting itself.

Tool Info
Category Problem Reframing
Updated 30/08/20
Templates   PDF     Miro
Creator Michael Morgan

Continuing with the theme of looking at problems from a different perspective, a Reframing Matrix encourages different people with different experiences to come together as they will approach problems in different ways.

The technique then examines the problem from four different business perspectives;

  • Product - Is there something wrong with the product? Is there a price issue? Is it reliable?
  • Planning - Are the business, marketing or strategy plans at fault?
  • People - What impact is the problem having on people? Why are potential users not using the product? What do the people involved with the project think?
  • Potential - Could increasing targets, speed and production effect the problem? How can this be achieved?

However, it could also be used to examine the problem from four different stakeholder perspectives for example.

This is quite a transparent exercise, and it's important like all things to not point blame, but to resolve the problem.

We can use the insights garnered during this process to them update the Problem Statement or Hypothesis, or help define the problem reading for ideation.

Tool Info
Category Problem Reframing
Updated 30/08/20
Templates   PDF     Miro
Creator Antropologerne

Another tool that can with reframing a problem and looking at things from a different perspective is Challenge Mapping. It encourages different strategies and tactics for solving the problem by reframing the approach.

This is achieved by a central 'How Might We' question around fixing the problem, and then asking the question 'Why' that will work, creating another 'How Might We' and so on, and then asking 'What's Stopping Us' and creating further 'How Might We' questions.

This helps to surface the key decisions points that will have the biggest impact on the problem.