Learn How To Define The Problem Before Solving It

2 September 2022

[Video Transcript]  

Define The Problem, Success And Decisions Needed

Insights From '5 Ways To Simplify A Complex Problem'


I'll bet you've dealt with your share of exceedingly complex problems. You've probably even solved a few along the way. Wasn't fun, was it?

How do we make those complex problems simple?

I'm Mike Figliuolo, managing director at thoughtLEADERS.

I've dealt with tons of complex problems over the years, and I use some great and simple tools for taking all that ambiguous mess, driving clarity, and turning it into something that we can solve quickly.

The first step in solving any ambiguous, complex problem is, let's define what the problem is and what success looks like.

So many times I see people get a problem and they rush off and start running numbers and doing analysis and putting together project plans and possible solutions.

And it's like, "Hey, hang on a second. Timeout."

What's the actual problem, what is success going to look like, and what decision do we have to make?

We don't have time to do that. We got to go start doing analysis.

No, stop, stop.

That's going to be wasted effort.

What is the problem? Let's really define it. Let's put some scope around this.

Let's say, all of a sudden we're losing customers and sales are down.

We'll want to rush out and figure out which customers and start doing market research and surveys and how much are sales going down. And what's the new forecast?


What's the problem?

Is the problem the loss of customers? Is the problem we're not getting renewals? Is the problem that revenue is down?

What does success look like?

Is it a certain number of customers? A certain retention rate? A certain revenue number? And what decisions do we have to make?

Do we have to decide sales and marketing strategies? Do we have to decide if we're going to offer discounts or change our pricing policy? Do we have to decide if we're going to offer new products or launch into a new market?

If we try to tackle all of that at once, it's really hard to solve.

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But if you put a little bit of specificity upfront and clearly define this problem and define success and define the decision, it becomes a lot simpler to solve.

If I just went out and started figuring out which customers aren't buying anymore and what segments are we not selling into but it's really a revenue problem that I'm trying to solve, I might come up with a bad solution or there may have been an easier solution.

Easier solution instead of trying to sell a bunch of new customers, maybe it well, okay, maybe we just raise price by 5% to make up for the shortfall.

And by the way, all that pricing is going to hit the bottom line anyway. So it's not just a revenue lift, it's a profit lift too.

Wow, that was simple.

But I never would have seen it if I immediately gravitated toward, "Well, this is about - we're not making enough sales to new customers."

By defining all three of these elements with any complex problem that you're dealing with, it's going to narrow the scope and get you to focus on the most meaningful solutions that drive the impact you actually need versus the first impact that you think of.

If it's all about driving revenue, that leads us to look at a very different set of solutions than if it's all about driving customer count.

If it's all about new customers versus existing customers, again, very different set of ideas that we're going to ultimately pursue.

And if we don't know what success looks like, it is impossible to say, "Look, we solved the problem."

We have to define that upfront.

So, take a moment, look at the most complex problem that you're personally dealing with and define these three things.

Once you have those clearly defined, it's a lot easier to make that complex problem simple.

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