Problem Finding

still life fruit wine

We are all aware on how important the skill of problem solving is.  But there is a related skill that is even more important.  This is the skill of problem finding.  Finding, analyzing, and understanding problems is the key to more success in your career.

This was studied in a classic case of fourth year art students at the University of Chicago in 1964.  Researchers observed 27 art students who were given several still life objects and asked to create a drawing from them.  As the researchers looked on, they noticed that the students went about their task in two different ways.  Some chose their subjects quickly and got on with the task of creating an art piece.  A few of them, however, approached the assignment differently.  They took more time in studying the objects and how to arrange them.  They took more time in producing the art as well.  This clear distinction in style was describes by the researchers like this:  The first group was trying to SOLVE a problem and the second was trying to FIND a problem.  The first group tried to solve the problem: “Can you create a drawing?” while the second tried to find the problem: “What would a good drawing look like?”

Then an art show was held to display the works from this study and art critics, who were not aware of the experiment, judged each work for creativity, originality, and content.  Amazingly, the “problem finders'” works were judged significantly better than the “problem solvers'”.  This points to the value of problem finding.

Six years later these two groups were surveyed again.  About half the group had quit the art field completely and found other work in other fields.  The second group however was working and succeeding as artists.  The researchers were surprised to note that it was the problem solvers who had quit and the problem finders who had succeeded.

Sixteen years later (in 1980) another survey was taken and the problem-finders were  still “significantly more successful” than their peers.  The implication is clear.  In the words of the words of the researchers “the quality of the problem that is found is a forerunner of the quality of the solution that is attained… It is in fact the discovery and creation of problems rather than any superior knowledge, technical skill, or craftsmanship that often sets the creative person apart from others in his field.”

Wow!  This is clear evidence that we need to be excellent at problem finding in order to create better solutions and more success in our business careers.  In sales, operations, managing people, creating new initiatives, working in teams,  manufacturing, etc. let’s develop the mental discipline needed dwell on the problem long enough.  Without a doubt, the ability to FIND the true problem is what makes the greatest difference.  Do this and you will be able to develop creative, collaborative solutions for your customers and your team.

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