• March 28, 2018
  • 3 minutes
  • 0

Thomas Prehn’s innovation diary: Bring me problems, not solutions

The head of MindLab on why solving policy issues often comes down to redefining the problem

MindLab is the world’s oldest government innovation lab and has spawned imitations all over the globe. It stands at the forefront, both in theory and practice, of efforts to make government cleverer, faster and more inventive. Here, its director Thomas Prehn shares his experiences and ideas in a regular update.

Apolitical has previously interviewed Thomas here. He can be contacted on the Apolitical network here. The views expressed here are Thomas’s own and not representative of any public body. His work forms part of our feed on government innovation

Bring me problems, not solutions (27.March.2018)

Being the initiator of a solution beats being the possessor of a problem. Also in policy making. Why we are often asked to join projects with a well-defined scope for a solution.  

However, when this happens, the answer from MindLab is always: “no!”  

Actually, and put more correctly, the answer is: “no, but…”. Consequently not a definite “no”, but an invitation to jointly open up the solution space by exploring the problem-side of it. And more than often it becomes evident that not every solution has a problem. Every problem, however, has a solution.

 So we always insists, even for politically instructed solutions, to reboot the problem exploration. To ensure we’re not acting on symptoms. But on the real problem behind. And when we find it, we are rigorous in framing it, identifying our biases: our prejudices and our privileges. The elements defining our perspective of the problem. And then, hopefully we are not able to find just any problem, but an even better problem to solve.


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