Creating a stimulus to identify and validate problems

Once we gather just enough information about a problem, we are ready to test it. This means sharing it with relevant experts who are able to provide feedback on our findings and assumptions and help us assess whether a problem is worth further investigating. If it is, we try to understand how to better define it and what aspects to prioritise.

To facilitate this process, we create a stimulus or a proposal, which we then use in the interviews with experts. This stimulus can take many forms – it can range from a simple and succinct 1-page document to a visually engaging map of the problem area. No matter the format of the stimulus, it should reflect the following:

  • The context and factors influencing the problem
  • Barriers to overcome
  • Pathways from the current state to a result in the future (the result can be well or very loosely defined)
  • Potential/emerging solutions

We either share this stimulus with experts by email or we print it out and discuss it with them face-to-face. This gives them an opportunity to engage with the material, draw on it, and reflect on relationships between the different elements presented.

Creating and sharing a stimulus with experts helps us:

  • Assess whether the identified problem(s) are worth prioritising and trying to solve;
  • Correct any mistakes or misunderstandings;
  • Identify any missing elements – solutions, barriers, considerations;
  • Test our understanding and use of domain specific terminology;
  • Identify specific pathways towards solutions that could have a significant positive impact.

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