Problem solving is based on deep insights (unearthed insights are key to good problem solving…disruptive insights yield unexpected solutions):
You are right, the problem has to be well defined. This takes a deep assessment that includes perceptions as well as facts. People see what they believe and their beliefs shape perceptions that in turn shape how they define a problem. People like to think they make business decisions based on facts but in most cases they find the facts they want to substantiate their beliefs. You have to get to the underlying beliefs to unearth the insights needed for solutions.
In your journey to a solution, you have several other steps, in addition to the first Assessment step, that will also yield critical insights and shed more light on the problem itself:
1. What is the future desired result? Envision the future state of successfully solving the problem and achieving what is most important to you. It may reveal more about what the problem gap is really about.
2. How are you going to get there? Develop the plan to reach the future vision. Having to lay out solution scenarios also sheds light on the real issue.
3. Is there is true commitment? Make a decision based on values match, impact and outcome. The decision is only a true decision when it is stated in a How-to action process (Why, What, How, Who, When), otherwise it is only an good intention and nothing happens.
Engaging these steps iteratively helps to identify root problems, and develop the vision and commitment to address them. It’s important to cycle through all 4 steps but also to apply a “test and modify” approach, with some “implement and adjust” actions. And all of these steps continue to inform better understanding of the problem and lead to a more robust solution!
How does all of this fit with your model of problem solving?