Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate, and Think

September 7, 2015

This is an excerpt from Mona Patel’s new book, Reframe: Shift the Way You Work, Innovate, and Think. 2015 Lioncrest Publishing.

Excerpt from Chapter 7: The Reframework: Just Do WIT

Why isn’t innovation happening? Why does your business have user experience issues? Why aren’t customers in love with your brand? I believe it is because the people on your team, including you, are preventing it from happening. The problems are poorly defined.

Reframe Book CoverPeople have closed, biased perspectives and are not seeing the problem or opportunity space clearly. There’s not enough time spent and respect given to exploration, ideation, creativity, and the harder parts of the design process including evaluating, refining, and even failing.

This all changes with reframing. Designing a new frame around the same circumstances allows new perspectives and ideas to emerge. Constantly seeing things with a new frame allows all problems to feel solvable and become opportunities for creative problem solving.

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Think of it this way: the Reframework contains a set of eight modules that you can choose from depending on the type of business problem you have and the answers you need.

STEP 1—The Real Problem

STEP 2—A Different Lens

STEP 3—Ask What If

STEP 4—Funnel Vision

STEP 5—Themes

STEP 6—BS Excuse Personas

STEP 7—Rapid Refine

STEP 8—Execute

Most of the time, you’ll want to do all the modules in order and in full, maybe not. You’ll pick and choose and run whatever kind of WIT STUDIO you want, but the book takes you through from beginning to end, connecting the dots between feeling stuck and feeling inspired.

Note—We are just focused on ideation. Of course, some—including me sometimes—would agree that executing is more important than coming up with the idea. We’ll worry about that in the next book! For now, let’s just focus on getting great ideas flowing and helping people feel unstuck.

I should warn you that we designed this process. So, it’s going to be fun and pretty engaging while staying sharply focused on giving you concrete and actionable ideas—like the results of any great design project. It will cultivate your curiosity, encourage exploration, and increase your self-awareness around barrier-oriented thinking.

This chapter unveils the “magic” behind being creative. As you will see, anyone can do it.

Like making a great guacamole, once you know the process and the little tricks that make it amazing, you’ll be able to do it.

Does it work every single time?

Are you guaranteed success?


To my knowledge there’s no process that would consistently promise results every single time. With the WIT STUDIO approach, you’ll learn one easy way to come up with infinite creative ideas that can solve business problems.

Step 1: The Real Problem

First things first, spend some time on identifying and gaining clarity around the true problem. People often think they are articulating a problem, but really, they are just discussing their limiting factors or the baggage they bring to the table.

For example, one client asked us to help increase sales in their store. When we started asking about the specifics—like target audience type or in what way—for example, more products, more quantity of the same product, the more expensive products—they responded with how they didn’t have good metrics, they didn’t have enough budget to answer those specifics, and how their internal innovation team really owned this project, not them.

As you will see, these points may be true, and these compounding factors lead to paralysis.

Almost as a joke, we branded the term problonion [as shown in Figure 1] to talk about the various layers of problems and remind people to just focus on the one that feels like the trigger or starting point.

Figure 1—Problonion

The first rule is to make sure that you have a problem that you are passionate about solving and that your intentions are motivated by a desire to see real change. Make sure you pick a problem that you want to fix versus a problem you wish someone else would fix. Can you see the end result being so powerful that it will shift the way the world works? Does it shift the way an audience perceives or handles a certain thing?

One way to get the ideas flowing is to think about something that makes you mad. What sparks the fire that makes you want to dive in and find a solution? Because solving this problem is going to take work—probably hard work—and it has to be important enough to make you want to solve it. Then work backward to figure out what is the first problem you need to solve. For example, I’d love to use this technique to solve for homelessness, but I’m guessing a one-day WIT STUDIO may not solve that in its entirety. So, maybe I start with the homeless man outside of my office. Then the homeless shelter in the downtown Manhattan area. And on and on.

What about a laundromat? It’s boring and tedious for pretty much everyone to go and sit at the laundromat, waiting to switch their clothes from the washer to the dryer. How can that annoyance be alleviated? A laundromat user sits there for two hours every week, waiting for clothes to spin around and dry. Is this a problem that is important to you?

You have a drive and a hunger to change the experience. You’re willing to work through the pain it takes to solve the problem because it’s important to you.

Many times people are overwhelmed by the clarity needed to define a problem, so we tried to simplify it in the Problem Brief. The Problem Brief contains four parts: the Problem Space, the Goal Space, the Consequence, and the Gaps and Barriers.

  • Part 1 is the Problem Space, which is the reality or condition that prevents the goal or the state from being achieved. Spend time thinking about the way things are currently being done—the status quo. What do you expect? What’s overdone?
  • Part 2 is the Goal Space, which details the desired outcome or situation. (You can use “should” or “shouldn’t” because it’s how you want the experience to be.) The Goal Space includes your vision of how it would work in the perfect world.
  • Part 3 is the Consequence: What’s going to change if I solve this problem? Answer the “So what?” Begin small and build up: Why is this a meaningful goal? How will it help people? How does it benefit business? How does it benefit consumers? How does it benefit the industry? How could it benefit the world? In this case, the focus could be on community, energy preservation, or even learning/education.
  • Part 4 is the Gaps and Barriers, which are the missing components or the reasons why the problem hasn’t been solved. Barriers can emerge from social, cultural, physical, technological, and industrial areas.

These four components—what it could be, what it is right now, why it matters, and what is missing/blocking—lead to a simple, powerful Problem Brief and lay the correct type of foundation … to define the real problem, which is the first step in the Reframework.

Problem Brief

Problem Space: Laundromats are icky and underutilized. They’re out of the way, smell funny, and sometimes weird people are there.

Goal Space: The laundromat should be fun and enjoyable. I have to go there anyway, so it should be something that I can’t wait to do or experience. I want it to help me make friends and learn new things and to feel like a great use of my time. I shouldn’t dread going there.

Consequence: By innovating a new use for the space that laundromats occupy, we will generate excitement for the laundromat brand, infuse fun into people’s lives, and build better community relationships.

Gaps & Barriers: We haven’t solved this problem yet because we don’t have the money or time to do so, and we think people would rather do laundry at home. Laundromats don’t offer a delightful experience because people just want to be in and out. It’s like going to the bank or the grocery store—it’s just an errand. (Note—Be careful to not include the solution in the Problem Brief. When you ask people to ideate, but have already given them a solution, you can’t expect to take it much further.)

The point of spending time on the Problem Brief is to make sure your team is focused. They need to be aligned and understand the scope of the problem, and the problem needs to spark creativity and innovation. You’re setting the stake in the ground and saying, “This is what we need to fix.” 

CEO at Motivate Design

New York, New York, USA

Mona PatelFor over 15 years, Mona Patel’s ability to strategize quickly and customize solutions has set her apart in the industry. In 2009, she started Motivate Design, then two years later, UX Hires, to create a place where clients could get what they need rather than what an agency needs to sell. In short, she was disrupting before it was cool. She has delivered UX strategies and in-house usability programs to hundreds of clients through consulting and training. Before starting Motivate Design, Mona had been a Vice President at Human Factors International (HFI) and a Research Scientist at American Institutes for Research. She is a skilled practitioner of usability testing, expert review, and interaction design for Web sites, Web applications, intranets, and consumer products. Mona currently teaches at Parsons, The New School for Design, where she focuses on showing students the value of good design research. Mona holds an M.S. in Marketing Communications from Boston University and a B.S. in Engineering Psychology from Tufts University.  Read More

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