MIT Professor on enhancing Individual and Organizational Innovation

problem statements

By providing context, setting a goal, and applying limitations, they kick-start your thought process and point you in the right direction towards ideas.             

Trae Tessmann|
October 10, 2017

You want ideas and answers, but what’s the question?


In an article titled There’s One Question You Must Ask Before Solving Any Problem, we hear from Nelson Repenning, MIT Sloan School of Management Distinguished Professor of System Dynamics and Organizational Studies, and his views on what he calls the most powerful question in business – the problem statement.


Problem statements are, at their core, the specific questions or challenges that a business is looking to solve. From revenue generation to cost-savings to culture improvements, they come in many forms and levels of scope.


What separates a problem statement from a simple “what can we do better?” is their ability to convey a powerful message and challenge. By providing context, setting a goal, and applying limitations (time, resources, etc), they kick-start your thought process and point you in the right direction towards actionable ideas.


“Failing to articulate a problem statement reinforces the status quo–it’s the enemy of innovation. If you don’t take the time to formulate a clear problem statement, you are essentially relying on your brain’s automatic processor, which is very fast, but only reaches into your library of past experiences for solutions.” – Repenning (Read more on Problem Statements)


If you’re focused on idea management and innovation, or looking to expand your organization’s improvement programs, you need to master the problem statement. Not only will it keep management focused on the right problems and get you the ideas you need, but also make it easier to involve others in the process.



Learn how you can use problem statements and simple software to jump-start innovation within your organization.


About Trae Tessmann

Co-founder of Ideawake

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