Building Better Problems


The solution to any problem is entirely dependent on how the problem is defined. Likewise, redefining the problem, exposes huge opportunities for new solutions.

In Fact, a great deal of innovation arises not from a clever solution, but from a clever new definition of a problem.

For example, “build a better mouse trap” has entirely different outcome when one simply changes the definition of the word “trap”.

Manufacturing Problems.

Commercial Air Transportation, for example, was once lauded as a “Time Machine” because airplanes could carry a person into “a future” that was otherwise impossible to emerge in, or to a “past” that would never have been witnessed by any other means.

However, solving this problem created many more problems such as runways, infrastructure, car parking, noise, oxygen, crashing, etc. Diligently, we went about solving those problems as well. Unfortunately, solving each of those problems created a host of new problems. Today we’re down to solving the 3.0 ounce of toothpaste rule and the flammable underwear problem.

At some point we need to ask if we are manufacturing problems with every new solution. At what point is innovation taking us backwards? How prevalent is this human trait and does it have anything to do with the financial deficit?

Redefine the Problem

One of the greatest opportunities of Social Media (which is rarely cited by the experts) is the opportunity to redefine problems in the context of social media. Using our airline example, we know that commercial aviation arose from WWII as a response for bringing troops to static battle fields with such dynamic machines as the DC3. This worked great after the war too!

Today we still treat people as static and airplanes as dynamic. Suppose we were to redefine the problem so that people are dynamic and the airplane is static?

Think about it, people go about their life with work, family, and friends. Then they hop into a long aluminum tube, tie themselves down and sit there doing nothing. After a few hours, they emerge from the tube to go about their life, work, family, and friends. The aluminum tube is static, not dynamic – it’s a time machine, remember?

The opportunity, therefore, is for people to self-aggregate using social media around locations, schedules, and events related to life, work, family, and friends. The market could then supply the correct size aluminum tube to meet the need of the community. After all, wouldn’t it be easier to move one airplane to meet the ‘market of many’ rather than trying to move the ‘market of many’ to meet one airplane?

This may sound trivial now, but don’t underestimate the creativity of social entrepreneurs to build a better problem to solve.

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