The purpose of the Portfolio/Creative Problem Solving assignments are to encourage you to develop and demonstrate your ability to plan and lead creativity and innovation projects. You will prepare and present outcomes and learning from your experience applying methods learned in class to a current problem. You will be submitting work throughout the semester to advance this project.
What follows is the outline of the second stage of this project: crafting a problem statement.
The first step in solving a problem is understanding the problem, which is why we will start with the development of a problem statement. A problem is a statement attempting to clarify an area of concern, a condition to be enhanced, a difficulty to be removed, and/or a troubling question that exists and that points to the need for a greater understanding, investigation, and/or problem-solving. In brief, the problem statement looks to concisely explain the problem.
A clear problem statement helps to define and clarify the problem so that the team working on the problem can focus their energy and attention in the same direction. A good problem statement will be succinct, specific, measurable, and be clear about who/what is affected by the issue.
After reading the problem statement one should have a sense of
what the problem is,
what and who is impacted by this issue, as well as
where and when does it occur.
For this assignment, your problem statement, excluding the bibliography, should be about .5 – 1 page in length and any claims in the problem statement should be supported with properly formatted citations (that is, an adequate problem statement will be grounded in research).
Yes, you can develop a problem statement from one of your “Bugs” from the Bug List assignment. You do not have to but this is certainly an option if there is something that you feel passionate about.
Common issues in crafting the problem statement
Several common issues arise when people initially craft a problem statement, these are outlined below. To illustrate how these common issues, I will use the example of “food deserts” as a real problem that one might want to address in a given area.
Symptoms of the problem may be mistaken as the problem itself.
For example one might develop a problem statement that, in brief, asks the following question “poor people tend to eat very unhealthy food; how can we encourage them to eat better?” This kind of problem statement demonstrates that the person asking this question may not be aware of the deeper issue being faced by many poorer urbanites, namely the very inaccessibility of healthier foods in their neighbourhoods due to the existence if food deserts. In this case, dig deeper into the issue.
The problem of executing a particular solution may be presented as the problem statement.
Again, in the case of food deserts, someone may wish to set up community gardens as a way of making healthy foods more available to poor urbanites and ask a question similar to “how can we make four-season community gardens in Canada?” The issues here is that this is a question about executing a particular solution and it’s too early in the process to be thinking about implementation – that is your final assignment!
Finally, the problem statement is not about the cause of an issue, nor is it meant to lay blame on any group of people or organization.
For example, in the case of food desert, you may be tempted to ask questions such as “retail stores don’t want to locate themselves in poor neighbourhoods; how might we compel them to?”
Questions to ask yourself prior to submission
Imagine reading your problem statement with fresh eyes, as someone who has never thought of this issue before. With that perspective in mind, does your problem statement clearly explain what the problem is, what and who is impacted by this issue, as well as where and when it occurs?
Is it possible that you’ve encountered one or more of the common issues in problem statements, such as positioning the implementation of a given solution as the problem?
Have you used clear, straightforward language, avoiding jargon or other kinds of confusing language?
Have you supported any claims that are part of your statement with adequate research?
Does your problem statement drive toward ultimate impact, allow for a variety of solutions, and take into account context?

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