This is the most critical step in my process. If the opportunity I define is not valid, practical, or feasible then all of the work from this point on could be moot. This is probably case of semantics, but I prefer to use the word “opportunity” than “problem“. Although defining the problem is also crucial, anyone can identify a problem whereas it usually requires more effort and creativity to define where real opportunities exist to solve a problem. 

I typically begin by distilling the research that was done by affinitizing everything with the obligatory sticky notes — yes, continuing to keep 3M in business — and finding common trends in the research. The commonalities that emerge point to the existing problems or opportunities. Then by looking at the current state of the experience model, I develop multiple opportunity statements.  These opportunity statements begin by: “There is an opportunity to…” and it is always good practice to ensure that these statements are not solutions.  At this part of the process, I am determining where to focus my efforts and where the true opportunity lies.  An example might help:

Let’s take the case of the device used in the shipyard (see previous post). Some of the opportunity statements from this research could include:

  • There is an opportunity to create flexible attachment mechanisms for easy stowage and removability.
  • There is an opportunity to improve the users perception of the instrument as a helpful tool vs. a nuisance or a negative reminder.
  • There is an opportunity incorporate the device into their clothing and minimize the weight that the worker is carrying.

Some examples of non-opportunity statements that are more solutions are (what to avoid):

  • There is an opportunity to create a smaller device
  • There is an opportunity to add a clip to the device
  • There is an opportunity to make the device slimmer

The difference here is that by identifying opportunities, there can be a whole host of solutions that could be generated to fulfill those opportunities.  The idea here is begin broad, then narrow down the ideas.  For mid to complex problems, I typically generate 100-200 opportunity statements.  Then, I perform the same affinitization exercise and find common trends in the opportunity statements and narrow these down to less than 5 that have the most value.  From here, I will test out these opportunities through various methods that do not require major resources (engineering or time) through storyboards, surveys, face-to-face interviews, or low fidelity mock ups.  These are valuable tools that can quickly eliminate or validate an idea. From here, I am usually able to help teams focus on 1 or 2 opportunities. I recommend trying to focus one one opportunity vs splitting resources to pursue separate opportunities but if an agreement can not be met, it isn’t the end of the world.

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