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How to write a Problem Statement for an Innovation Challenge [Free Template + Examples]

Writing a great Problem Statement for an Innovation Challenge will help you get relevant ideas into your innovation funnel and better results from you innovation initiatives.

Alexander Wennerberg Larsson

Well, a problem is not usually seen as a good thing. But when it comes to innovation, it is. Contrary to what many believe, ideas are not the first step of innovation; problems are.

1. What is a Problem Statement?

2. Sample Problem Statement

3. How to write a Problem Statement

4. The formula!

5. Tips for publishing your Problem Statement

 

What is a Problem Statement?

Getting relevant ideas into a company's innovation funnel is a big deal breaker to succeed in innovation for many organizations. And that's where the Problem Statement comes in.

A Problem Statement, or Innovation Challenge as it is called in many cases, is a problem that an organization would like to solve to grow its market, become better internally, or survive the competitive market. Whether we call it a Problem Statement, Innovation Challenge, or a Mission, we're always talking about the same thing.

So, to be straightforward, Problem Statements are a description of a problem to help you get better and more relevant ideas and solutions to solve this problem.

 

Sample Problem Statement

When formatting a Problem Statement, you want to make it easy to understand for the people submitting ideas.

If you want to go to the formula straight away, click here to scroll down.

This fictitious example shows you an example of a Problem Statement where you would like to find a solution for car sharing.

"How might we make it possible for people in cities not to have to own a car by making car-sharing easier so that the environment will be less damaged and people can save money?"

 

How to write a Problem Statement

Writing a Problem Statement can really help a company getting ideas, but doing it right is a real game-changer to get the most relevant ideas into your innovation funnel. Here's how to write a Problem Statement, step-by-step.

Rule 1. Make the problem human-centered

The problem should be centered around the people who will benefit from the situation where the solution comes into play, rather than being focused on tech, economic goals, or product specifications.

e.g., "How might we help our consultants to sell more?" is better than "How might we sell more?"

Rule 2. Make it wide enough to open up for creativity

The Problem Statement shouldn't focus too narrowly on a specific method or solution which could solve the problem.

e.g., "How might we help our consultants to sell more?" is better than "How might we sell more through Marketing Automation?"

Rule 3. Make it specific enough to stay relevant

On the other hand, a Problem Statement like "Improve our company" is too broad and will make your employees feel confused.

e.g., "How might we help our consultants to sell more partner projects?" is better than "How might we help our consultants to sell more?"

 

The formula!

Do we have formulas to make it easier for you? Of course, we do. Here you go.

Describe the needs:

[user] needs to [user's needs] because [insight]

e.g., An adult person who lives in the city needs to access a shared car 1-4 times for 10-60 minutes per week because he would rather share a car with more people as this is cheaper and more environmentally friendly. However, it should still be easy for more people to share.

Ask for the solution:

How might we [human-oriented problem to solve] through/by [big hunch about the innovation] so that [important outcome that will happen]?

e.g., How might we make it possible for people in cities not to have to own a car by making car-sharing easier so that the environment will be less damaged and people can save money?

Breaking down the formula:

How might we - It gives people a feeling that there could be different kinds of solutions to the problem and that all ideas are welcome.

Through/by - It gives people a direction to be able to submit more relevant ideas to solve the problem.

So that - It makes it easier for people to understand what the ideas should result in.

 

Tips for publishing your Problem Statement

So, it's time to get your challenge started and gather ideas on how you could solve the problem.

Ensuring that your Innovation Challenge gets the maximum amount of distribution and attention will undoubtedly pay off. Here are some tips you can follow.

1. Be transparent

Being transparent about the problems you want to solve will set you in a position, whereas many people as possible could help you with ideas to solve the problem.

2. All ideas are welcome

Be sure to make it simple for everyone to submit ideas. Don't make everyone fill out a 7-page business case to engage. You will lose a lot of great ideas when you do that.

>> 6 steps to gather great employee ideas for improvement

3. Why not use software for it?

I know, a not-so-hidden plug, but using a user-friendly software to manage challenges and ideas will undoubtedly make you happy as a hippo and your life way more comfortable. Would you like to know more? Learn more here.

4. Make it cross-functional and inclusive

You never know where the best ideas will appear. Your IT Director could have a solution to a marketing problem, and the assistant in your economy department could have a suggestion on how you could solve an IT problem.

Make it inclusive.