Only the right problem will lead to the right solution

“What are my options?  And which is the best option?” When faced with an issue, most people spend a lot of time working on solution-finding and how to fix the problem.  We brain storm, make webs of ideas and just try to make it better.  At #fuse17, a design thinking conference in Atlanta, Georgia, Bo Adams and Trey Boden explained why it’s really the problem, not the solution, that we need to focus on.

“You need to spend more time problem-finding and less time coming up with a solution because your problem needs to be the right problem to solve with the right solution matched with it.” – Bo Adams

To be a human-centered designer, and move from designer to design thinker, we need to put the user at the center of our work.  By listening and watching and really employing empathy, we can understand what the real problem is and come up with a solution with the best fit.  Often times, what we think is the problem is based on our own thoughts and expectations – what WE see as the problem.  Through empathy and active listening, the real problem emerges after we see through our user’s eyes. Only then, can the best solution be discovered.
Bo shares three real-world stories illustrating this point through the work of Doug Dietz, the creator of the GE MRI machine and Adventure Series, Jane Chen, creator of the Embrace Baby Warmer and MVPS, a school in Atlanta, Georgia.

Trey uses Bible stories to explain that design lives in the gap between experience and expectation.  We need to change our thinking to design a better world.  He tells the story of Jesus helping a man with a shriveled hand and the Good samaritan to show that if we are going to make the world a better place, we need to empathize with our user and delay our judgment.  The solution is the best one for them, not ourselves.

We believe that students can be change-makers and design a better world.  Through empathy work and design thinking, they can discover the real-world problems that the world faces and match the best solutions to those problems.  HMW empower more schools to do the same? By sharing stories about how our own students are designing with the user at the center, others might be inspired by the work we undertake together.


Please share your design thinking stories here! We’d love to hear from you and how you are designing for the right problems.

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