Inside Out and Upside Down

In his post, “Are You Solving the Right Problems,” Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg recommends the oft suggested ‘reframing’ of the question to determine whether or not one is solving the right problem — in some ways not unlike ‘thinking outside the box,’ popularized in the 1970s, or other business reasoning processes he mentions like Six Sigma. However, the author does provide some interesting distinctions and examples to illustrate his point.

One of the author’s examples of reframing the question explained the success of the interventions on behalf of pet owners and their pets by identifying and minimizing impediments to the owners being able to keep their pets. He emphasizes the innovative reframing that successfully demonstrated that the problem of overcrowding in the animal shelters didn’t need to just mean ‘how to house more animals.’

Perhaps in a more basic and understandable way, Tina Seelig demonstrates reframing in a video excerpt. Starting with something as basic and commonplace as a nametag, she shows how to break down assumptions and ask new questions to consider various potential problems and solutions.

Unfortunately, as Michael Hammer makes clear in a related post on operational innovation, companies that are willing to ask if they’re solving the right problem are few, but include luminaries like Dell, which rose to stardom by deviating from industry standards in terms of manufacture, inventory, and order fulfillment. Hammer also mentions Walmart, Toyota, and Progressive insurance as innovators who surpassed historic industry leaders.

All of these sources provided useful insights as preparation for the research and hypothesis-testing portions at the outset of our cognitive design project proposal development. The helped show how to unframe and then reframe a what a problem might be and, based on those revelations, how potential solution(s) can innovate.