Problem Finding

Problem Finding

From Latin problema-ătis “set question”, from the Greek pro “forward” and dance “launch”, “throw”, “put forward”.

Problem finding is the art of finding problems where by problems we mean those situations that create discomfort, pain and difficulties but that have a potential solution. It is a cognitive process that is activated when a doubt arises about latent needs, when we ask ourselves questions about the possible existence of a seemingly marginal problem, when we wander with our mind in search of what is wrong, when we formulate hypotheses using imagination and a different point of view than what we usually adopt.

But problem finding may also be considered as the ability to anticipate the occurrence of possible problems, which often have the name of errors and failures. How? Despite the obvious importance that problems have in stimulating thinking and guiding it towards new solutions, very little is still known about how the problems themselves are found and formulated, but there are useful techniques for learning to identify errors and failures before they manifest themselves, or to tackle unexpected events and stumbling blocks.

To find new problems, we need a certain intellectual openness, and propensity to see exceptions and to see what is out of the ordinary, and that is why it is necessary to develop other soft skills, such as creativity and imagination, strategic and critical thinking and empathy and active listening and the ability to assess and make decisions.
Problem finding is followed by problem setting, which is the ability to define the problem and to circumscribe it. It indicates the ability to describe what has not yet come to light and to anticipate obstacles by asking the right questions.

In organisations, the trend is to maintain the status quo, solve problems only when they arise and when it has become urgent to remedy them. But this trend makes organisations vulnerable and easily exposed to risks and uncertainties. Organisations that do not give priority only to urgent issues and problems that are already apparent for all to see and that encourages people to tune into the weak signals, to amplify them with imagination and to evaluate their implications and possible developments are antifragile.

Similar but distinct from problem finding is problem setting, a methodology through which a problem is identified and conceptualised after careful reflection on the available information, on missing information and on the correlation between them, in order to accompany a student in the search for the solution. A critical and creative approach that allows us to focus on the ability to imagine the world not as it is but as it could be.