Seeing, Reframing, and Pursuing Problems with Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg — DT101 E86

Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg is the author of What’s Your Problem and coauthor of Innovation as Usual. We talk about problem reframing, developing innovation skills, and the power of thinking deeply about problems.

Listen to Learn About

  • Framing and reframing problems
  • Helping teams and companies to change their approach to problem-solving
  • Thomas’ books
  • Advice for companies and individuals wanting to learn problem reframing
  • A shortcoming in design thinking tools
  • The future of innovation and problem framing
  • Some hints about Thomas’ new book-in-progress

Our Guest

Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg is the author of “What’s Your Problem,” published by Harvard Business Review Press. He works with companies all over the world to help them solve the right problems. HIs first book was “Innovation as Usual,” coauthored with Paddy Miller, focusing on how to drive innovation as part of an everyday job. He was born in Denmark and is now based in New York.

Show Highlights

[01:19] How a failure led Thomas into a collaboration with a professor from his business school.
[01:50] Observing what happened to business innovation advice taught in school and how it played out in the real world.
[02:39] Co-authoring “Innovation as Usual” with Paddy Miller.
[03:54] Thomas talks about what led him to write “What’s Your Problem.”
[07:00] Mistakes people make when framing, and re-framing, problems.
[08:15] The slow elevator problem.
[11:11] The importance of the people’s perspective when looking at the problem space.
[13:28] The mental shift of having the answer to finding the answer.
[15:05] Thomas’ advice to companies wanting to do better when it comes to finding and framing problems.
[16:13] Two critical things a team needs when starting to incorporate reframing in their work.
[19:09] Thomas asks Dawan to talk about his use and emphasis of the question, “What problem are you trying to solve?”
[20:56] Problems that arise when a company starts solving the wrong problem.
[22:09] Solving the right problem and reframing also works for internal problems.
[24:54] Problems change over time.
[27:23] A problem by any other name is still a problem.
[29:27] Thomas shares a story about PayPal.
[31:49] Thomas talks about the future of problem-solving and innovation.
[34:28] One thing Thomas discovered while developing his workshop.
[35:09] The question storming method.
[36:31] Thomas points out a shortcoming of current design thinking tools.
[38:27] Advice for those wanting to develop their problem framing and questioning skills.
[39:33] Books and resources Thomas recommends and that have influenced his work.
[42:15] Thomas gives some hints about the book he’s working on now.
[42:28] Thomas asks Dawan to recommend resources that he really likes and that influenced him.
[44:14] The success of “What’s Your Problem.”
[46:03] Where to find out more about Thomas and his work.
[47:01] Why Thomas says he’s like a truffle-sniffing pig, and how it’s similar to problem reframing.
[47:49] “Thought leadership” is the topic of the book Thomas is writing now.


Thomas on Twitter
Thomas on LinkedIn
Thomas’ website
How to Reframe
Reframing: How to Solve the Right Problems
What’s Your Problem? Big Idea Webinar
The Secret to Better Problem Solving, HBR IdeaCast
Are You Solving the Right Problems?
Reframing Problems To Solve Tough Issues
Jeanne Liedtka

Book Recommendations

Innovation as Usual: How to Help Your People Bring Great Ideas to Life, by Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg
What’s Your Problem?: To Solve Your Toughest Problems, Change the Problems You Solve, by Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg
Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days, by Jessica Livingston
How We Think, by John Dewey
Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking, by Jennifer Riel and Roger Martin
Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Designing for the Greater Good, Strategy + Design Thinking, and Measuring Design Thinking with Jeanne Liedtka — DT101 E1
From Branding to Design + Teaching Design Teams + Leading Summer of Design with Karen Hold — DT101E13
Design Thinking at Work + Three Tensions Designers Navigate with David Dunne — DT101 E23

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In this self-paced, online course, Framing: Creating Better Solutions by Finding More Valuable Problems to Solve, you will learn to create more effective solutions by understanding the problem you are trying to solve.

Creating effective solutions begins with understanding the problem we are trying to solve. Is this problem worth solving? Where should we look to understand our problem? What’s happening inside this problem? How do we define the problem? How do we adjust problem framing as we go? During the course, you will learn to answer these questions and apply them to your work.