Solve the Right Problem Now

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Now you gathered information from your target audience through interviews and observations, what can you actually do with it?

Let me illustrate with a story:

Once upon a time, there was Leo, who always wanted to start his own business. And he wanted to tackle a problem that he experienced himself. This problem was in receiving post already a year-long from previous tenants at his address. He was very frustrated, because he did not want to receive it, and his mailbox was always full. He tried reaching out to the companies but that did not work, because the post was not under his own name. 

One day he decided to find out if others had this problem as well. He believed he was not the only one with this problem. He interviewed other tenants and focused on getting an unbiased understanding of the problem that others have with the mail delivery.

Because of that, he received so much information that he became overwhelmed. He wrote and recorded all the insights he got from the interviews but didn’t know how to order it.

He used something called ‘affinity mapping’. He found that this tool was extremely handy in finding out what the problem with mail delivery really was.

This led to a deeper understanding that the problem around post-delivery. He found that the problem was actually more around laziness. Most people didn’t really care anymore about the post. He found that his problem was around people expecting post not being delivered at the door anymore, but only digitally. This meant for him instead of focusing on the tenants, his focus became on the companies still sending their letters.


Just like Leo, affinity mapping can help you to find the real problem when you have done interviews and observations.

So how do you do it yourself?  

  1. Save your notes

It’s super important to have your data gathered on paper, audio or video to have unbiased data you can work further on. Now it’s time to find everything back you gathered and do the fun stuff.


  1. Use post-its

Put all the insights you’ve discovered on separate post-its. Don’t write names or something that identifies people on it. It’s about the insight, not the person.

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  1. Make an Affinity diagramming

Affinity diagramming helps you to create clarity out of your insights. You do this by analysing all the notes and just notify which topics come up by reading them. Put all the post-its together that fit the same boxes.

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An affinity diagram

How to do it:

  1. Create between 3-10 groups that fit the same box
  2. Name the groups that you have formed
  3. See if there are connections between the groups
  4. Find the group with the highest challenges and summarize that into one post-it
  5. Find out how this is connected to (some of) the other groups and use these to create a storyline out of it. For example, The biggest challenge we are facing is the communication between local- and international students because of the language barrier.

When you’ve done this, you might have found already one topic or issue that jumps out on which you can focus. Depending on if you have enough statistical data underpinning the problem faced in this topic, you can or:

  1. Do more research (interviews, or surveying) to really make sure the problem is a problem
  2.  Start creating How Might We questions: more about that in the next blog! 

Solve the right problem by using all research you gathered through interviews and observations and an affinity diagram to find the points to focus and work further on. 



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