Monday, April 11, 2011

Turn problems into opportunities

Charles F. Kettering, a holder of 120 patents and the inventor of the electric starter car starter for General Motors, was quoted as saying, "A problem well stated is a problem half solved."

This is half true.

It's not enough just to identify the problem. In order to generate new ideas, that problem must be viewed in context with a vision of the future.

One of the key steps at the front end of innovation is to convert problems into possibilities. I've found the easiest way to do that is to use these five simple words...

"In what way might we..."

So instead of: "Our sales are falling because our target is aging," reframe it as, "In what way might we attract younger users to our brand."

Instead of: "This health craze is killing our cola business." try, "In what way might we create a drink that's as healthy as water but cravable as cola."

By using this clause to frame your thinking, you instantly move from focusing on the current state to the future state. You move from dwelling on the the problem to finding a solution.

And that's really the point of any innovation effort.


  1. If "...a problem well stated is a problem half solved ..." and "... this is half true." So, a problem well stated is only 25 percent solved.

    Reframing the problem as a question moves from fretting over what is to imagining what could be.

    Thanks harvey for helping to get my brain moving each morning.

  2. I like your logic, Bob. Thanks for the kind words. I'm glad this blog inspires more than me every morning.