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What Is A Problem?

A simple way to define the word ‘problem’ is: a situation that needs attention. Wikipedia authors describe one as “…any situation that invites resolution.”

That’s a nice way to put it – ‘invites resolution.’

A lot of folks are afraid of the word “problem.” To simply use the word – in relation to you or your business – is considered declaration of some sort of failure.

So, we sugar-coat the situation, re-phrasing it as a ‘challenge’ or ‘opportunity.’

Spilled Milk

While I support optimism, over-sweetening a situation can prevent people from realizing how bitter the problem may be.

No, don’t cry over spilled milk, instead figure out what knocked it over, and how to avoid spills in the future. Addressing a problem’s root cause – not ignoring it – will allow you to find the solution.

Image Source: Little People Blog

By Paul

Hi, I'm Paul.

Brainstormer, professional problem solver, and remarkable marketer.

I've spent the past 20 years building marketing, branding, and customer-experience strategy for The Disney Company, the Aramark Corporation, and Starbucks Coffee Company.

I founded Idea Sandbox in 2005 driven by my passion to help others create remarkable ideas. I blend the skills and lessons I've learned through the years to build a sandbox - an idea sandbox.

I help brands solve challenges, grow their brand, think-up remarkable ideas, and create innovation.

I'm a master at local store marketing, restaurant marketing, and developing marketing for experience-based brands. Companies that want to beyond simply delivering "service" and want their customers to have an experience.

I live just outside Washington DC in Alexandria, Virginia.

8 replies on “What Is A Problem?”

Paul, I agree with the sentiment, especially as someone who gets on people’s nerves by bein unnecessarily positive. But problems are different beasts to challenges, opportunities, and all those other, perhaps glossier, alternatives. All the more reason to be aware of rebadging! But, I don’t think the problem-solution dichotomy is any better. I think it’s much worse! It’s one type of unproductive to gloss over a problem by calling it an opportunity, but having a good idea and being forced to define the problem you’re solving is even worse! And much more pervasive an issue

JSB,

I’ll have to revisit this idea in future articles. I agree that there is a different way to approach a problem, a challenge, or an opportunity. And, it would be a shame if teams ONLY filtered from a problem point-of-view.

Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts!

Years ago my sister shared a line from a movie that said, “It’s not a problem, it’s a situation.” I’ve often thought about that line (and tried to remember what movie it was from). I think it really invites creativity and progress. What a great way to look at challenges that arise from day to day. Thanks for sharing this!

Karen,

I *love* this idea! A situation is a great way to frame any… situation. It’s non-judgmental. Gives it all a chance to be examined before it is categorized. Thanks!

I like to simplify…a problem is a question that needs answers…I do not think it can be simplified further but in the same time I believe it catches the essence of what a problem is.

Accepting that a problem exists is often the first step in the resolution of the problem. But, once you have accepted it, I think it is always better to see it as an opportunity to improve the situation, rather than as a problem. Sugarcoating it just helps us believe that it is something we can get over.

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