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3 Magic Questions

Start Every Project with these 3 Magic Questions

There are three magic questions that we use at our agency to ensure we’re making the best use of our time and talent, and our client’s resources. Whether you’re designing a new innovation process for your company, running the annual planning process for a brand, or even starting a new project at home — the three magic questions can really help you focus, clarify and prioritize during the critical early stages of discovery and planning.

A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.

The first magic question is, “What problem are we trying to solve?” It’s a basic question, so often it’s overlooked because it seems silly or too obvious. But it’s not. The American inventor Charles Kettering even went so far as to say that, “A problem well stated is a problem half-solved.” Clearly articulating the ‘problem to be solved’ exposes underlying assumptions and gets everyone on the same page.

What is the reward or the “size of the prize” for solving it?

The second magic question asks, “Is this problem worth solving?” On any given day there are many problems, big and small, facing your organization or an area of your personal life. How do you decide if it’s worth your time, effort and resources to solve? First, you need to know if this problem is important to your customers and your business. Next, you need to understand how big the problem is, or put another way, what is the reward or “size of the prize” for solving it? Often developing a simple business case is helpful so you don’t invest time and resources on problems that just aren’t that important. Lastly, ask yourself if you can measure whether you are making progress toward solving the problem. If you can’t measure, it may indicate that you need to restate the problem in simpler language or move on to the next problem on your list.

Decide if you’re going to develop the solution by yourself, or find a partner to help you.

The third magic question asks, “Has anyone else already solved this problem?” If the answer is YES, you have the option to abandon this particular problem since it’s been solved. OR, buy or license the solution from the person or company that solved it and offer the solution to your customers. If you ask, “Has anyone else already solved this problem?” and the answer is NO, you have a fantastic opportunity to create a new-to-the-world solution. Since you’ve already determined that the problem is worth solving and you’ve identified additional resources, now you must decide if you’re going to develop the solution by yourself or find a partner to help you do it.

Asking the three magic questions is a great way to start a meeting, kick off an innovation project or frame a planning process. Give it a try — we’d love to hear about your results!

> Watch the ‘3 Magic Questions’ video

Author: Joe Shields

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