This week I have moved on to exploring the second component of the design process. In this stage, we define the problem. It seems like a very easy, straightforward activity, doesn’t it? I’m here to tell you that looks can be very deceiving. Defining the problem involves sifting through all of the findings from the empathy stage and coming up with an actionable problem statement. It requires me to be more specific about the constraints and details of the problem. To define the problem I will have to look at it from a creative perspective and consider reframing, possibly more than once, to get it just right.
To get into the right frame of mind for this challenge I did a few “warmup” exercises. These exercises helped to get me ready to think creatively and to reframe the problem. To be honest, they were fun too!
Exercise #1: Creating Sniglets
Sniglets are words that don’t appear in the dictionary but that really should. They are created by observing life and creating words for things that don’t already have a word. Here are mine –
Dishspair (dish-spair) – n. The feeling you get when you realize there are more dishes to wash.
Eubakia (yoo-beyk-ee-uh) – n. The euphoric feeling of baking the perfect baked good.
Mindin (min-din) – n. The tiny dinner you have after eating a late heavy lunch.
Exercise #2: Reframing
In this exercise, I identified a problem, described the problem, and then I described how reframing it could lead to a better solution.
Original Problem: When I started working at my current job the classroom was not set up in an organized and useful manner. I teach baking and thus I need mixers, ovens, sinks, etc. for all of the workgroups. There were three ovens, three sinks, and six workgroups. 24 students were expected to work in the space at the same time with this limited access to equipment. While there were six stand mixers in the classroom another problem arose on my second day when we plugged them in and turned them on. We flipped a breaker! I was so very frustrated! From conversations with my coworkers, I knew that the district was absolutely not going to buy more ovens or install more sinks. They were also not going to consider limiting the number of students in the classroom. .
Reframed Problem: I had to find a way to make this space work even with all of its “quirks” I talked to the buildings and grounds crew to find out which outlets were connected to different breakers. Then I sat in the middle of the classroom and looked all around me at what was available. I had to change the way I looked at the problem to what I DO have rather than what is missing. Once I reframed it the problem became how can I set up the classroom to make it a working kitchen for 24 students with individual workspaces for each group.
From this reframing experience, I learned that the way I look at a problem has a LOT of impact on the success of the solution. Once I reframed it I was able to set up the room in a very successful format that has worked for us for 3 years. Each year there are small tweaks to the organization of the space but the general layout has been perfect. Truly solving a problem requires us to look at it creatively.