Frame. Reframe. Move Forwards … Most people are quite good at solving problems, but less good at defining the right problem to solve.

April 29, 2020

Most people are quite good at solving problems, but less good at defining the problem to solve.

I first met Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg in Hong Kong whilst I was working with Time Warner. His approach is incredibly simple, so simple you might dismiss it, and he also has a rather arrogant streak, which perhaps comes with knowing that most of us are trying to solve the wrong problems. His new book What’s Your Problem? might help.

Reframing is a powerful technique that focuses on diagnosing a given problem – such as, ‘what is preventing us from making progress‘ or perhaps a problem faced by your customers – and then, crucially, challenging and reframing your initial perception of that problem.

The importance of reframing becomes clear when you look at how people tend to approach problem-solving. By nature, innovative people are often action-oriented and tend to apply brute force in the shape of trial-and-error. That is often a good approach. But the tendency to ‘jump into action’ also creates a danger that people keep trying new solutions without understanding whether they understand the problem correctly – or if they are even targeting the right problem in the first place.

The trial-and-error approach benefits tremendously from being combined with reframing; a little bit of analysis can save people a great deal of wasted effort. But it is critical to introduce the idea of reframing as early as possible, before people start falling in love with a particular type of solution.

Try this worksheet:  Techniques to Transform Obstacles into Opportunities

In a survey, 85 percent of companies said they often struggle to solve the right problems. The consequences are severe: Leaders fight the wrong strategic battles. Teams spend their energy on low-impact work. Startups build products that nobody wants. Organizations implement “solutions” that somehow make things worse, not better. Everywhere you look, the waste is staggering.

As Peter Drucker pointed out, there’s nothing more dangerous than the right answer to the wrong question.

There is a way to do better. The key is reframing, a crucial, underutilized skill that you can master with the help of this book. Using real-world stories and unforgettable examples like “the slow elevator problem,” Wedell-Wedellsborg offers a simple, three-step method … “Frame, Reframe, Move Forward” … that anyone can use to start solving the right problems. Reframing is not difficult to learn. It can be used on everyday challenges and on the biggest, trickiest problems you face. In his new book, he describes how leaders at large companies, from entrepreneurs, consultants, nonprofit leaders, and many other breakthrough thinkers.

It’s time to stop barking up the wrong trees. Reframe, and growth and success will follow.