How to Solve Any Problem in Just 1 Hour With No Pain

Working in tech means dealing with really complex problems. You usually feel trapped. There’s no way out. These kind of situations are generated every time you move within a system that’s composed of processes and people. Most of the time, finding a suitable solution involves taking more than one action or modifying several processes that affect the company as a whole.

For quite some time now at Lateral View we have been using design as a transforming force. It is easy to limit design to an area that only intercedes in the creation of a certain product. It’s much more than that. I’ve already mentioned this on previous articles but let me focus on this idea once more: Every company is a design company. Design improves processes and helps define strategies for entire organizations, especially in times like these where it’s so difficult to determine which actions to take in order to tackle certain issues without getting completely lost.

This is the reason why we began using this simple but effective decision-making framework. It’s an adaptation of the Lightning Decision Jam created by AJ&Smart. The idea behind this is to replace the traditional pointless meetings where problems are discussed without any clear structure wasting a lot of time (and money), by a clear and practical process.

This decision-making process has already come in handy in several areas such as product design, marketing, sales and development. Our design processes are much more polished and efficient, development retrospectives have become more useful and we’ve improved our sales flow.

Also, it has helped us solve several of our clients’ problems such as how to improve a certain product’s delivery process, how to differentiate from a competitor or how to achieve a better on-boarding of a product.

What You’ll Need:

First things first: find an issue you need to correct, improve or analyze. Then, you’ll need to gather a team of people that are related with it. 3 to 5 participants is enough.

The idea is to carry out this activity in a meeting room, free of telephones and interruptions. You’ll also need some stationary materials: sticky-notes, sticky-dots, markers, a timer (we like the Time Timer) and a whiteboard. This activity takes up just 1 uninterrupted hour that’s divided into small specific exercises. It is also key to choose a facilitator. They will be in charge of getting each exercise done on time.


#1 Identify problems

10 min

The first step consists of each member of the team writing down on sticky notes the problems they identify regarding the issue you are dealing with. This first step is individual. The idea is to write each problem on a different sticky note.

#2 Present problems

4 min per person

Each participant sticks their sticky notes on the whiteboard and briefly explains each of the problems. This can not take up more than 4 minutes per person. The rest of the team is not allowed to speak.

#3 Vote which problems to solve

6 min

Each participant has two votes. They will use them to choose the problem or problems they consider are the most relevant. After voting, the moderator organizes the problems according to the number of votes.

#4 Reformulate Problems into How Might We

6 min

During this steps participants will reformulate the most voted problems using the HMW format of the Design Sprint. This will allow the team to change their perspective and think about the problem as a challenge. For example, if the original problem is “I don’t know what’s going on in the projects that I don’t participate in.” its HMW format would be: “How could we get to know what happens in the projects that we do not participate in? “.

#5 List Solutions

7 mins

Participants will now think of solutions to the HMWs. Each member of the team has 7 minutes to write down solutions in their sticky notes. No debate allowed. This step is all about quantity not quality. Each participant needs to write as many solutions as they can think of. After the time is up, all the solutions are stuck on the whiteboard.

#6 Vote

10 min

Each participant will have 6 votes to decide which are the most interesting solutions. They can devote all of their votes to one solution, divide them between two, vote six different, it’s free.

#7 Establish Priorities

1 min

The moderator will organize the solutions from the most voted to the least voted. The solutions with less than two votes will be ignored.

#8 Decide

10 min

We need to draw a graph. Label the x axis “effort” and y axis “impact”. Afterwards, the moderator will ask the team to help him or her choose where to stick each of the most voted solutions. It is crucial that this done by the moderator and that participants just give directions.

After doing this participants will have a much clearer view of all the solutions that have been proposed. Those that imply the greatest impact and the least effort are the ones that must be activated asap.

#9 Transform solutions into actionable items

5 min

The moderator sets apart the solutions the team is going to apply and together with the participants writes a list of actionable items that will help to implement this solution. Actionable items = tasks and actions you the team can complete within one or two weeks. After this period of time passes the company should be able to evaluate and measure if solutions are working or not.

This is the end of the activity. The team involved in solving a certain issue will know which are the different paths they may take and which of them involve more effort ad more impact. There has been a discussion but it was structured and timed with no interruptions. This kind of activities help teams to align and focus on detecting and solving problems in a realistic way.

We can clearly see how this kind of activities help us to align a team and to focus on solving any problems, deep down they are a transforming element that allow us to be innovative.

Elevate is a publication by digital product agency Lateral View.

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