How to (Re)Frame Your Problems to Find the Right Solutions

Ward Andrews
By Ward Andrews
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Have you ever shopped for a certain model of car and then started seeing it everywhere? Or maybe you learned a new word and suddenly it’s popping out of mouths left and right.

This is known as the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon or, in simpler terms, frequency illusion. It’s a form of selection bias that tricks our brains into thinking that something we learn about is suddenly appearing everywhere out of the blue. In reality, you’re not seeing more cars of a certain model. You’re putting a mental frame around those cars that causes you to notice them more often.

So, what does that have to do with product development?

Let’s say you have a big internal stakeholder or client asking for a solution to a big problem. You’ve done your due diligence and identified the root cause of the problem so you don’t waste time with temporary band-aids. This root cause reminds you of other projects you’ve worked on, so you’re already brimming with ideas of how to solve it.

But there’s one more step you need to take before jumping into a solution - and that step is backwards.

Our brains are great at tricking us. That's why we need to be crafty about getting around those tricks. We need to make sure we’re not only seeing what our brains want us to see. Investing time upfront to frame (or reframe) a problem can lead to better solutions.

In a series of posts this month, we’ll walk through several of our tried and true methods for problem framing:

Identify the Obstacles in Your Way Gain a New Perspective Re-Map Your Users’ Journey

These exercises are just a sampling of options when it comes to problem framing. But they’ll give you a sense of how true innovation comes from drawing backwards. Sometimes you need help seeing the problem for what it really is, and not what you think it might be.