Defining the Problem leads to Successful Solutions


“If I had an hour to save the world
I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem
and one minute finding solutions” – Albert Einstein

In order to solve a problem, you first have to define your problem. If you don’t understand the problem, how can you come up with a creative and successful solution? Learning to define the problem before trying to tackle it is a life skill that everyone in your family can use. Here are three different ways you can define a problem.

Write Down and Rephrase – Writing down the problem makes it concrete and visual instead an abstract concept floating around in your head. Once you have it down, start to phrase it in different ways. Rewrite the question using who, what, where, when, and why as a starting point.

Say you want your family to be more creative. This could be written as: “How can my family be creative?,” “Where can my family go to do creative activities?,” “What creative activities can we try?,” “Who can inspire us to be more creative?,” or “When can my family get together to try a creative activity?”

Rephrasing your problem allows you to consider different parts of the problem and encourages a wider range of solutions. Do this activity with your kids when they are struggling with a problem, helping and guiding them through the different ways of rephrasing a question.

Find More Perspectives – Considering different perspectives is a great way to help define your problem. If you are in a group this is easy to do – have everyone write down how they see the problem and discuss. You can also look at a problem from the points of view of other people involved, or how it would impact them.

For example: Your child isn’t doing his chores. Together you discuss the problem from the parents perspective, the house’s perspective, the family perspective, and your child’s perspective. You might discover that your child might not associate doing chores with being part of a family, and you need to explained this (which you might not have realized if you didn’t consider your child’s perspective). Or perhaps there is something stopping them – maybe they don’t know how to do it, where to put things away, or when it needs to be done.

Identify and Challenge Assumptions – Assumptions are ideas or opinions that you think are true. They could be personal assumptions or commonly held ones. I grew up with “Never Assume.” My mom would never let me forget these words and they serve me well even today. It is easy to make assumptions about people, situations, and problems without having all the facts. These can pigeon holes you and can stop you from finding the really creative solutions.

Once you have defined your problem in several different ways, try to brainstorm and list all of the different assumptions you can think of. And then challenge them. Are these assumptions valid? Are they correct?

For example: You are planning a family vacation. When you use the term “family Vacation” what assumptions does each family member have? Do they assume you have to drive? Could you challenge this? You can consider alternate travel: walking, flying, by train, or boat, or even an alternate style of vacation, a family bike tour or a “stay-cation,” exploring your local community instead. This presents you with many more ideas and opportunities then you would have originally thought of.

Having the ability to identify and define your problem before seeking a solution is becoming a lost art, but it remains a useful tool that everyone in the family can use.

How do you define problems? Please share and leave a comment below!

Posted in Children's Development.

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