What is Your Problem? The Importance of Problem Storming for Crossing Knowledge Boundaries

Sponsored by Stanford Technology Ventures Program, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research


Wednesday, October 17, 2018
4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
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What is Your Problem? The Importance of Problem Storming for Crossing Knowledge Boundaries

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Join Hila Lifshitz-Assaf from NYU for a seminar on problem-solving. We have long believed that the way a problem is formulated is crucial to the way it is solved, and that innovative solutions often stem from reframing a problem. However, since problem formulation and problem-solving are two intertwined phases that have been all but impossible to tease apart, our knowledge of problem formulation proper has hardly advanced in the last few decades. The recent rise of distributed model of innovation, such as crowdsourcing, decouples the problem formulation process from the problem solving one. This presents an opportunity to shed light on the problem formulation process and investigate its true impact on problem-solving. I have conducted two studies in this direction. The first was a longitudinal inductive research project exploring the process of solving strategic R&D problems at NASA when using simultaneously the distributed crowdsourcing model and the standard organizational one. I find that some hard scientific and technological problems were solved through a process of “problem storming” in the distributed model. This process included questioning the current formulation of the problem and reformulating it in a way that can be solved by to other disciplines, professions and solution heuristics, outside usual knowledge boundaries. Problems that went through “problem storming” had more successful solutions. My second study was a field experiment with multiple R&D managers from various companies to investigate the impact of distributing the “problem storming” process to make it more impactful for organizations. I will share the results from these studies in my upcoming talk.

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