Problems before solutions

You need to understand an issue before you can solve it.

It sounds counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t we be all about solutions? Yes and no.

We can be all about solutions at the end, but we want to be all about the problem at the beginning. If we decide on the solution too early, it can blind us to:

  1. what the real problem is, and
  2. other perhaps more apt solutions.

The following anonymous anecdotes warn about the dangers of leaping to a single solution too quickly.

"Have you ever had the experience of delivering something to a client and it didn't turn out to be the thing they needed? Whenever I see this happen I wonder how much better the outcome would have been if the team had focused more on understanding the problem before leaping to a solution."
"I once led a project where, after a few months focussing on the problem, we agreed on a solution. After a year of trying to make the solution work, we finally gave up and pursued another tack. As the project lead, I held onto the solution for too long — even when it wasn't working because we had no other solution. I should have gone back to the problem."
"A client approached us to do some work with a solution in mind. Over six months we built the product. At the end of this time we finally understood the problem they were trying to solve. If only we had explored the problem at the beginning... we could have helped them make it so much better."

Exploring the problem from many different perspectives and not leaping to a solutions prematurely, helps:

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