If you’re reading this article, you know that your organization is facing some challenges. Maybe they’re related to sustainability, efficiency, maybe it’s about your workplace culture, but the problem is that you’re not really sure where to start. If you feel like you need help with this, you’re not alone. It turns out that 85% of executives say that problem diagnosis is not their strong suit even though they acknowledge that not being able to correctly diagnose a problem carries significant costs.

So, if you’re looking to address existing issues at your organization, start by following these four simple steps.

Problem Diagnosis Steps to Help Your Innovation Program

  1. Pause, take a breath…. then gather, review and prioritize existing knowledge. Business leaders often want to get straight to solutions instead of considering the problem. It’s a great instinct, but it also pays to take some time and look at the problem from multiple angles. Don’t just start solving – ask other people what they think the problem is, write down draft problem statements, look at the problem from other perspectives (how would you solve the problem five years ago, ten years in the future?). Look at multiple feedback sources (customers, employees, partners). Try and get to consensus on the problem that you’re trying to solve and then move to step two.
  2. Start with why. Get to the core of the problem that you want to solve. Who are you serving with your solution? Your customers, your shareholders, your citizens? Figure out what matters most to them and how you can best solve the problem for them.
  3. Set expectations. Now we’re really going to get granular about the problems that we’re solving! There are tons of solutions to problems, but we need to think about what sorts of solutions best suit our problem so it’s important to describe some of its attributes. Are we looking for new incremental improvements or are we looking to disrupt a new market? Are we following trends or are we paving the way? These sorts of definitions will help us develop a campaign brief that will make shopping for a solution easier.
  4. Define success. How are you going to know a good solution when you see it? It’s important to start with some quantifiable metrics so that you can recognize solutions when they arrive. Sometimes the success metrics don’t exist yet, so you need to set a baseline. For example, if you want to improve employee satisfaction, you have to launch an employee satisfaction survey now so that when you have a solution, you can test its efficacy by launching the same survey and noticing if the score changes. Some of the most common success metrics that we see: revenue growth, cost savings, time savings, employee satisfaction, and customer satisfaction.

For a deeper dive into this concept, watch IdeaScale’s “How to Pick the Right Problems to Solve” webinar.

About the Author:

Jessica Day is a marketing and technology writer and editor for IdeaScale, a leading innovation software solution for idea management. She received her Masters in Writing from the University of Washington. Day also blogs about crowd-based innovation and idea management solutions at ideascale.com/blog.