Leading modules


Module 5 “Can I solve problems?” – Creative problem solving

Unit 2 – How to analyze a problem?
How to get a complete picture?

“The ability to ask the right question is more than half the battle of finding the answer.”
— Thomas J. Watson, founder of IBM

In addition, you can further clarify your problem by asking questions like: “What do I really wish to accomplish?”, “What is preventing me from solving this problem/achieving the goal?”, “How do I envision myself in six months/one year/five years [choose most relevant time span] as a result of solving this problem?” and “Are my friends dealing with similar problems? If so, how are they coping?”

The 5W+H tool is simple and very useful for gathering information and details systematically about a problematic situation in order to clarify the situation. The five W’s and the H are acronyms for Who? What? Where? When? Why? And How?

Don’t mix up the 5W+H questioning with the 5Why questioning! The first is a Cause Effect Analysis, while the 5Why a Root Cause Analysis. You can use both simultaneously by integrating the 5Why into the 5W+H tool.

By the time you have answered all these questions, you should have a clear idea of what your problem or real goal is. If you are quite sure from the beginning about the problem definition, you can also simply follow these three steps:

1.Describe the vision: Start by describing how things should work in the most ideal situation. Before the problem is described or treated, a few sentences should be used to explain what the situation would be if the problem did not exist.

2.Describe the problem: Accurately describing the problem is often half the work. Summarise the problem briefly and position the key information at the beginning of the single-phrase problem definition.

3.Describe the consequences of the problem: Once the problem is defined, it must be explained why it is a problem. What are the consequences if the problem is not solved?

Now, that you have a complete picture of the problem, you should formulate challenge questions by turning the problem into a question.

Formulate Challenges is the third step of the Clarify stage in the Creative Problem-Solving process. Its purpose is to sharpen awareness of the challenge and create challenge questions that invite solutions.

You should construct the question in a way that encourages suggestions or ideas. It should be short, concise, and only focus on a single issue. Challenge questions should start with

  • “How to …”
  • “How might I …”
  • “In what ways might we …”

Once you have created one or two questions, start trying to answer them. In the next Unit you will learn how upon the challenge question you can develop ideas for possible solutions.