When we define problems, we often focus more on what we can’t do than what our solution could be. We narrowly define why we can’t instead of opening up the solution space to what we can. Working on understanding a problem means changing how we define the problem such that it includes a solution – whether that solution is direct change, adapting to an unchangeable aspect or completely bypassing the problem.

Defining what the problem is in terms of what is stopping you is an important first step. If you don’t know what the obstacle is and why that prevents progress, you can’t factor into your solution something that addresses that issue. However if this is where our defining the problem stops, we have only defined half of the problem. The interferes with finding a solution.

Looking at what a solution can look like allows the problem to be defined in terms of outcomes and possibilities. For example, I can’t move forwards. Ok, that is good to know. Why? What does forwards look like? How will you know that you have progressed? Is forwards the only way to get to your destination? The first definition – I can’t move forwards – is accurate but limiting. Incorporating these follow up questions into the definition of the problem allows scope for finding a solution that gets the outcome you are after.

Considering the scope of the definition is similarly important. If your definition is too broad, you can paralyze yourself in your analysis of the situation. If you don’t define enough, you limit the space landscape to find a solution. If you can figure out which way you have limited yourself, then you can adjust and compensate.