Cracked it!: How to solve big problems and sell solutions like top strategy consultantsCracked it!: How to solve big problems and sell solutions like top strategy consultants

What is “Cracked it”?

1. The Most Important Skill You Never Learned

1. Explanation:

The opening chapter of the book “Cracked It!: How to Solve Big Problems and Sell Solutions Like Top Strategy Consultants” is aptly titled “The Most Important Skill You Never Learned.” It delves into the critical skill of problem-solving, an essential but often overlooked competency in both our personal and professional lives.

2. Key Concepts:

This chapter introduces several key concepts related to problem-solving:

a. Fast and Slow Problem Solving: The authors distinguish between fast and slow problem-solving. Fast problem-solving involves quick, intuitive decisions based on past experiences, while slow problem-solving is a more deliberate, systematic approach that aims to tackle complex problems. Learning to switch between these modes is crucial.

b. Problem Solving and the Expertise Trap: The authors emphasize that expertise can sometimes be a hindrance. Experts tend to rely on their existing knowledge, which can limit their ability to approach problems from a fresh perspective. To become an effective problem solver, one needs to break free from the “expertise trap.”

c. Complex Problems and “Unknown Unknowns”: Complex problems, often referred to as “unknown unknowns,” are those that are difficult to define and understand fully. These problems may involve multiple variables and stakeholders, making them particularly challenging. Conventional problem-solving methods may not work for these types of issues.

d. The Need for a Disciplined Problem-Solving Process: The authors stress the importance of having a disciplined approach to problem-solving. This involves a structured process that can be applied to a wide range of problems. The 4S Method, introduced in later chapters, serves as a framework for addressing complex problems systematically.

3. Examples:

To illustrate these key concepts, the authors provide examples from different domains:

a. Case 1: When the Music Industry Went Out of Tune: This case highlights the consequences of flawed problem definition in the music industry. The industry initially misdiagnosed the threat posed by digital technology. This is an example of fast problem-solving leading to poor results.

b. Case 2: The Grameen–Danone Strengthening Yogurt: The authors present a case involving Grameen and Danone, where they attempted to create a nutritious yogurt for underprivileged populations. The pitfall here was “solution confirmation,” where they prematurely assumed the solution without fully understanding the problem.

c. Case 3: The Call Center Story: This case focuses on issues faced by a call center. The pitfall of “wrong framework” is highlighted, where the problem was misunderstood due to a narrow perspective.

d. Case 4: New Strategy at J.C. Penney: In the case of J.C. Penney, the authors discuss how a narrow framing of the problem led to a misguided strategy.

e. Case 5: A Fat Chance for Sugar: In this case, “miscommunication” played a critical role in problem-solving challenges when trying to combat obesity.

These examples underscore the significance of effective problem-solving, the perils of common pitfalls, and the importance of adopting a structured approach in tackling complex issues. “The Most Important Skill You Never Learned” serves as a compelling introduction to the world of problem-solving and sets the stage for the subsequent chapters, which delve deeper into the 4S Method and its practical applications. It is a reminder that problem-solving is a skill that can be honed and refined, and it holds the key to addressing the most challenging issues in various aspects of life.

2. The Five Pitfalls of Problem Solving

1. Explanation:

Chapter 2 delves into the five common pitfalls that individuals, organizations, and strategy consultants often encounter when tackling complex problems. These pitfalls are critical to understand because they can impede the problem-solving process and lead to ineffective solutions.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Pitfall 1: Flawed Problem Definition: The first pitfall involves a poorly defined problem. When a problem is not clearly articulated, it’s challenging to address it effectively. Flawed problem definition can lead to wasted resources and misguided solutions.

b. Pitfall 2: Solution Confirmation: Solution confirmation refers to the tendency to settle on a solution prematurely without thoroughly investigating the problem. This pitfall can result in the implementation of solutions that do not align with the actual problem or fail to address it comprehensively.

c. Pitfall 3: Wrong Framework: The wrong framework pitfall occurs when the problem-solving approach is based on an inappropriate or inadequate framework. Using the wrong framework can lead to biased assessments and missed opportunities for innovative solutions.

d. Pitfall 4: Narrow Framing: Narrow framing happens when the problem is defined too narrowly, focusing on only one aspect or dimension. This pitfall can hinder holistic problem-solving, as it fails to consider the full scope and potential interconnections within the issue.

e. Pitfall 5: Miscommunication: Miscommunication involves a breakdown in conveying the problem or the proposed solution effectively. Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, resistance to change, or the inability to gain stakeholder buy-in.

3. Examples:

The book provides several real-world examples to illustrate these pitfalls:

a. Case 1: When the Music Industry Went Out of Tune: The flawed problem definition is evident in the music industry’s initial misunderstanding of the impact of digital technology on its business model. The industry’s failure to recognize the problem’s true nature led to significant challenges.

b. Case 2: The Grameen–Danone Strengthening Yogurt: Solution confirmation is highlighted in this case where Grameen and Danone prematurely assumed that fortified yogurt was the solution to undernutrition in Bangladesh. This assumption limited their ability to explore alternative approaches.

c. Case 3: The Call Center Story: Wrong framework is demonstrated in a call center case where a focus on improving the efficiency of individual operators led to overlooking broader systemic issues. The wrong framework prevented a comprehensive solution.

d. Case 4: New Strategy at J.C. Penney: The narrow framing pitfall is showcased in J.C. Penney’s case, where the problem was framed too narrowly, concentrating solely on pricing strategy. This limited perspective resulted in negative consequences.

e. Case 5: A Fat Chance for Sugar: Miscommunication is evident in the attempt to combat obesity through restricting sugar intake. The failure to communicate the purpose and benefits of the initiative effectively led to public resistance and limited effectiveness.

These examples underscore the significance of recognizing and avoiding the five common pitfalls of problem solving. They serve as cautionary tales, emphasizing the importance of robust problem definition, thorough exploration of solutions, selecting appropriate frameworks, broad framing of problems, and effective communication. By addressing these pitfalls, individuals and organizations can enhance their problem-solving capabilities and achieve more successful outcomes when facing complex challenges. Chapter 2 of “Cracked It!” serves as a critical guide to navigate these pitfalls and foster effective problem-solving.

3. The 4S Method: A Framework for Problem Solving

1. Explanation:

Chapter 3 introduces the 4S Method, a structured framework designed to guide individuals and organizations in solving complex problems effectively. This method serves as a systematic approach to problem-solving and enables a more organized and comprehensive analysis of challenging issues.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Where Does the 4S Method Come from? The chapter begins by explaining the origins of the 4S Method. It is a practical approach developed by top strategy consultants, refined through years of experience, and aimed at addressing complex problems faced by various industries.

b. An Overview of the 4S Method: The 4S Method consists of four key stages: State, Structure, Solve, and Sell. These stages form the backbone of the framework, guiding the problem-solving process from defining the problem to communicating the solution.

  • State: This stage emphasizes the importance of clearly defining the problem. It involves the identification of trouble, determining the problem’s owner, setting success criteria, understanding constraints, and identifying stakeholders.
  • Structure: In this stage, the focus is on organizing and structuring the problem. Problem structuring methods, such as hypothesis-driven problem structuring and analytical frameworks, are introduced as tools to break down complex problems into manageable components.
  • Solve: The Solve stage is about conducting in-depth analyses. It outlines the Eight Degrees of Analysis, a process that involves planning and executing a series of analyses to gain a deeper understanding of the problem.
  • Sell: The final stage revolves around effectively communicating the solution. It introduces the concept of creating a core message and storyline, developing recommendation reports, and delivering the solution to stakeholders.

3. Examples:

To illustrate the 4S Method, the authors provide a fictionalized case study:

Case Study: The Kangaroo Opportunity

a. State: A Problem Well Posed Is Half-Solved: In this stage, the team identifies the trouble, determining that there is an opportunity gap in the market for a new type of toy, specifically a kangaroo-themed toy. The owner of the problem is a toy company seeking new product ideas. Success criteria include profitability and market acceptance, constraints involve budget limitations, and the actors consist of the toy company’s management team and customers.

b. Structure: The Architecture of Problem Solving: The team applies the 4S Method to structure the problem. They create a hypothesis-driven problem structure to explore customer demand and the competition. This helps them understand the underlying issues and opportunities more clearly.

c. Solve: Between Analysis and Creativity: The Solve stage involves conducting a series of analyses, including market research, cost analysis, and product design. These analyses help the team refine their understanding of the problem and develop potential solutions.

d. Sell: Choose the Approach That Suits Your Audience: To sell the solution, the team crafts a core message and storyline emphasizing the unique selling points of the kangaroo-themed toy. They also create a recommendation report and deliver it to the toy company’s management team, illustrating the market potential and profitability of the new product.

The Kangaroo Opportunity case study demonstrates the practical application of the 4S Method. It showcases how each stage of the framework contributes to a structured problem-solving process, helping individuals and organizations approach complex issues in a methodical and effective manner. The 4S Method serves as a valuable tool for strategy consultants and anyone seeking to enhance their problem-solving skills, ultimately leading to better solutions and more successful outcomes.

4. State the Problem: The TOSCA Framework

1. Explanation:

Chapter 4 introduces the TOSCA Framework as a crucial component of the 4S Method. This chapter emphasizes the significance of the State stage in problem-solving and provides a structured approach to defining the problem effectively.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Trouble: What Makes This Problem Real and Present: The TOSCA Framework begins with identifying the trouble associated with the problem. Trouble represents the aspects of the problem that make it real and urgent. It includes understanding the current situation, challenges, and the consequences of not addressing the problem promptly.

b. Owner: Whose Problem Is This: This stage focuses on determining who owns the problem. Ownership is essential for accountability and effective problem-solving. Understanding who is responsible for addressing the issue ensures clarity in roles and responsibilities.

c. Success Criteria: What Will Success Look Like, and When: Success criteria define the specific outcomes or goals that need to be achieved to consider the problem solved. Clear success criteria guide the problem-solving process and provide a benchmark for measuring progress.

d. Constraints: What Are the Limitations and Trade-Offs: Constraints acknowledge the limitations, boundaries, and trade-offs that may exist while solving the problem. Identifying constraints helps in making informed decisions and managing expectations.

e. Actors: Who Are the Stakeholders: Recognizing the actors involved in the problem is crucial. These are individuals or groups who have a vested interest in the problem’s resolution and can influence the outcomes. Understanding the perspectives and needs of stakeholders is essential for a successful solution.

f. Write the Core Question: The core question is a concise and clear statement that encapsulates the problem. Writing a well-defined core question is essential because it shapes the direction of the problem-solving process.

3. Examples:

To illustrate the application of the TOSCA Framework, let’s consider a real-world example:

Case Study: Reducing Employee Turnover in a Tech Startup

a. Trouble: What Makes This Problem Real and Present: The trouble in this case is the high rate of employee turnover. The startup has been losing skilled employees at an alarming rate, leading to disruptions, increased recruitment costs, and potential negative impacts on project timelines.

b. Owner: Whose Problem Is This: The owner of the problem is the CEO of the tech startup. It falls under their responsibility to address this issue, as high employee turnover affects the company’s performance and reputation.

c. Success Criteria: What Will Success Look Like, and When: Success criteria involve reducing employee turnover by 25% within the next six months, retaining key talent, and maintaining or improving project deadlines. Success means a more stable workforce and reduced recruitment costs.

d. Constraints: What Are the Limitations and Trade-Offs: Constraints include budget limitations for implementing retention strategies, potential trade-offs between salary increases and other incentives, and the need to address the issue without disrupting ongoing projects.

e. Actors: Who Are the Stakeholders: Stakeholders include employees, managers, HR, and the CEO. Understanding the perspectives and concerns of each group is vital for devising effective retention strategies.

f. Write the Core Question: The core question for this problem could be: “How can we reduce employee turnover by 25% within the next six months while maintaining project timelines and operating within our budget constraints?”

The TOSCA Framework ensures that the problem is clearly defined, all relevant aspects are considered, and the core question is formulated with precision. This foundational step in the problem-solving process sets the stage for the subsequent stages of the 4S Method, guiding individuals and organizations toward a more structured and effective approach to solving complex problems.

5. Structure the Problem: Pyramids and Trees

1. Explanation:

In Chapter 5 of “Cracked It!: How to Solve Big Problems and Sell Solutions Like Top Strategy Consultants,” the authors introduce the concept of structuring problems using pyramids and trees. This approach is a key component of the 4S Method and is designed to help individuals and organizations break down complex issues into manageable components for more effective problem-solving.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Hypothesis-Driven Problem Structuring: The key concept in this chapter involves structuring the problem through hypothesis-driven methods. Instead of trying to address all aspects of a problem simultaneously, this approach focuses on generating hypotheses about the problem’s various dimensions and exploring them systematically.

b. Building a Hypothesis Pyramid: The authors introduce the idea of building a hypothesis pyramid. A hypothesis pyramid starts with a high-level hypothesis, which represents the main problem, and then breaks it down into sub-hypotheses that delve deeper into specific aspects of the problem. This pyramid structure helps in progressively exploring the problem’s intricacies.

c. Issue-Driven Problem Structuring: In addition to the pyramid approach, the chapter also discusses issue-driven problem structuring. This method involves creating issue trees that outline the cause-and-effect relationships within the problem. It allows for a more detailed exploration of specific issues and their interconnections.

d. Pros and Cons of Hypothesis-Driven and Issue-Driven Methods: The authors highlight the advantages and disadvantages of both hypothesis-driven and issue-driven problem structuring methods. Each has its strengths, and the choice of method depends on the nature of the problem and the objectives of the analysis.

3. Examples:

To illustrate the application of problem structuring using pyramids and trees, let’s consider a practical example:

Case Study: Optimizing Supply Chain Management for a Retail Giant

a. Hypothesis-Driven Problem Structuring: The problem the retail giant faces is an inefficient supply chain that results in delays, excess inventory, and increased costs. Using a hypothesis-driven approach, the team formulates a high-level hypothesis: “Optimizing the supply chain will lead to reduced costs and improved efficiency.”

  • Sub-hypotheses in the pyramid may include:
  • “Reducing lead times in the supply chain will minimize inventory costs.”
  • “Streamlining supplier relationships will enhance supply chain efficiency.”
  • “Implementing a demand forecasting system will reduce stockouts and overstock situations.”

b. Issue-Driven Problem Structuring: Alternatively, the team may opt for issue-driven structuring to delve deeper into specific aspects of the problem. They create an issue tree to explore the supply chain inefficiencies:

  • At the top of the tree is the main issue: “Supply chain inefficiency.”
  • Sub-issues may include “vendor management,” “warehouse operations,” “transportation logistics,” and “inventory management.”
  • Further sub-issues can be identified under each of these categories, such as “supplier delivery times” and “warehouse layout.”

The choice between hypothesis-driven and issue-driven structuring depends on the specific problem and the goals of the analysis. Hypothesis-driven structuring is useful when the team has a high-level problem statement and wants to explore different dimensions systematically. Issue-driven structuring is valuable when the problem is already well-understood, and the goal is to dissect it into actionable components.

Using pyramids and trees as problem structuring tools enhances clarity and precision, enabling individuals and organizations to approach complex problems with a more organized and systematic perspective. This method sets the stage for further analyses and the development of effective solutions in the problem-solving process.

6. Structure the Problem: Analytical Frameworks

1. Explanation:

Chapter 6 delves into the topic of structuring complex problems using analytical frameworks. This chapter introduces the role of frameworks in problem solving, emphasizing their significance in dissecting intricate issues into manageable components.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Using Frameworks to Break Down Problems: The primary concept presented in this chapter is the application of analytical frameworks to dissect complex problems. These frameworks provide a structured and organized approach to understanding the various dimensions of an issue, making it easier to analyze and develop solutions.

b. The Danger of Frameworks: Frameworks as Mental Models: The authors caution against the indiscriminate use of frameworks. While frameworks are powerful tools, they can become mental models that constrain thinking and limit problem-solving creativity. It’s crucial to use frameworks thoughtfully and adapt them to the specific problem at hand.

c. Industry Frameworks: Value Drivers: The chapter introduces the concept of industry-specific frameworks that highlight the key value drivers in a particular sector. These frameworks are valuable for understanding the critical factors that contribute to success or failure within an industry.

d. Functional Frameworks: Functional frameworks focus on key functions within an organization. They provide a structured way to analyze how different functions, such as marketing, operations, or finance, contribute to or hinder problem resolution.

e. When All Else Fails, Try Good Old Logic: The authors highlight that when no appropriate framework is readily available, it’s essential to rely on fundamental logic and reasoning to structure the problem. Sometimes, a common-sense approach is the most effective.

3. Examples:

To illustrate the application of analytical frameworks in problem solving, let’s consider a real-world example:

Case Study: A Struggling Retail Chain

A struggling retail chain faces a decline in sales, profitability, and customer satisfaction. To structure the problem using analytical frameworks, the following approaches can be employed:

a. Industry Frameworks: Value Drivers

The retail industry has established industry-specific frameworks that identify key value drivers. The team examines these frameworks to gain insight into the factors influencing the retail business. They might discover that customer experience, inventory management, and pricing strategy are pivotal elements in the industry’s success.

b. Functional Frameworks

The team decides to employ functional frameworks to explore the problem further. They choose to investigate inventory management using a functional framework. They break down the inventory management function into sub-components such as ordering, storage, and distribution. By analyzing each of these elements, they can pinpoint where the problem might lie.

c. When All Else Fails, Try Good Old Logic

In this case, no readily available industry or functional framework is suitable to address the specific issues the retail chain is facing. The team resorts to good old logic and common-sense reasoning. They systematically assess the situation, analyze customer feedback, and evaluate the company’s operations to identify any irregularities or inefficiencies.

The use of analytical frameworks in problem solving ensures that all relevant dimensions of a problem are explored. Whether it’s leveraging industry-specific frameworks, dissecting functions within an organization, or employing logic and reasoning, these tools help individuals and teams approach complex issues with a structured and systematic mindset. It is this structured approach that paves the way for more effective problem solving and the development of well-informed solutions.

7. Solve the Problem: Eight Degrees of Analysis

1. Explanation:

Chapter 7 delves into the critical stage of problem solving: analysis. The authors introduce the concept of the “Eight Degrees of Analysis” as a systematic approach to dissecting complex problems. This chapter emphasizes the significance of thorough analysis in understanding the nuances of an issue and crafting effective solutions.

2. Key Concepts:

a. From Structuring to Analyses: The chapter underscores the transition from structuring the problem to the analysis phase. After a problem has been effectively structured, the next step is to perform in-depth analyses to gain a deeper understanding of the problem and identify potential solutions.

b. Eight Degrees of Analysis: The central concept in this chapter is the “Eight Degrees of Analysis.” This framework outlines eight distinct dimensions or perspectives through which a problem can be analyzed. These degrees include:

  1. Objective: Understanding the fundamental goals and objectives associated with the problem.
  2. Factual: Analyzing concrete, quantifiable data and evidence related to the issue.
  3. Structural: Examining the underlying structures and processes involved in the problem.
  4. Strategic: Evaluating the broader strategic context and implications of the problem.
  5. Behavioral: Investigating the behaviors, attitudes, and motivations of individuals or groups involved in the problem.
  6. Cultural: Exploring the cultural and social dynamics that may impact the issue.
  7. Environmental: Assessing external factors, such as market conditions or regulatory changes, that influence the problem.
  8. Historical: Examining the historical context and trends related to the issue.

3. Examples:

To illustrate the application of the Eight Degrees of Analysis, let’s consider a real-world case study:

Case Study: Reviving a Dwindling E-commerce Platform

An e-commerce platform has been experiencing declining sales and customer retention rates. The team decides to use the Eight Degrees of Analysis to comprehensively understand the problem:

a. Objective Analysis: The team identifies the primary objective as increasing sales and customer retention. They assess whether this objective aligns with the organization’s broader goals and mission.

b. Factual Analysis: The team collects and analyzes data, including sales figures, customer feedback, and website traffic statistics. They discover that sales have been declining steadily over the past year, and customer feedback indicates dissatisfaction with the user experience.

c. Structural Analysis: The team investigates the structural aspects of the platform, including the website’s architecture, payment processing, and customer support processes. They discover that the website’s user interface is not user-friendly, leading to high cart abandonment rates.

d. Strategic Analysis: The team considers the platform’s place in the broader e-commerce market and its competitive positioning. They identify key competitors and analyze their strategies for customer acquisition and retention.

e. Behavioral Analysis: The team conducts surveys and interviews with customers to understand their behaviors, preferences, and motivations when using the platform. They discover that customers prefer a more intuitive interface and faster delivery options.

f. Cultural Analysis: Cultural analysis reveals the impact of cultural trends on shopping behavior. The team identifies changing consumer preferences influenced by societal shifts toward online shopping and convenience.

g. Environmental Analysis: The team examines external factors such as market conditions and competitive forces. They observe increased competition from new entrants and shifts in customer expectations regarding delivery times.

h. Historical Analysis: Historical analysis reveals trends in e-commerce adoption, customer preferences, and industry evolution over the past decade. The team discovers that customer expectations have evolved significantly.

By applying the Eight Degrees of Analysis, the team gains a comprehensive understanding of the problem’s various dimensions, allowing for a more informed and targeted approach to finding solutions. This systematic analysis not only uncovers the root causes of declining sales but also identifies potential strategies for reviving the e-commerce platform, such as improving the user interface, streamlining payment processing, and enhancing delivery options. The Eight Degrees of Analysis provide a structured and holistic approach to tackling complex problems and developing effective solutions.

8. Redefine the Problem: The Design Thinking Path

1. Explanation:

Chapter 8 introduces the concept of the “Design Thinking Path” as a creative approach to redefining complex problems. This chapter explores how design thinking can be used to gain fresh perspectives and generate innovative solutions by shifting the focus from the problem to the user experience.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Design Thinking and When to Use It: Design thinking is presented as a problem-solving approach that emphasizes empathy, creativity, and user-centered solutions. It is suggested that design thinking is particularly valuable when tackling problems that involve human experiences, interactions, and emotions.

b. Five Phases, One Mindset: The authors outline the five phases of the Design Thinking Path:

  1. Empathize: Focus on understanding the experiences and perspectives of the people involved in the problem.
  2. Define: Clarify the core problem and develop a specific problem statement.
  3. Ideate: Generate creative and innovative ideas for solving the problem.
  4. Prototype: Create and test tangible solutions or prototypes.
  5. Test: Gather feedback and refine the prototypes through iterative testing.

These phases are accompanied by a consistent mindset that encourages open-mindedness, collaboration, and a willingness to embrace ambiguity.

3. Examples:

To illustrate the application of the Design Thinking Path, let’s consider a practical example:

Case Study: Improving Patient Experience in a Hospital

A hospital seeks to improve the overall patient experience. By applying the Design Thinking Path, the hospital team takes the following steps:

a. Empathize: The team starts by conducting in-depth interviews and surveys with patients, families, and hospital staff to understand their perspectives, challenges, and needs. They discover that patients often feel overwhelmed and stressed during their hospital stays due to a lack of information and support.

b. Define: Based on the insights gathered during the empathize phase, the team defines the core problem as follows: “Patients lack the information and emotional support they need during their hospital stays, leading to a poor overall experience.”

c. Ideate: In the ideation phase, the team conducts brainstorming sessions to generate creative solutions. Ideas include creating patient information packets, introducing support groups for patients and families, and offering virtual reality experiences to reduce stress.

d. Prototype: The team develops prototypes for the proposed solutions. They create a sample patient information packet, design a pilot support group program, and test virtual reality tools.

e. Test: The prototypes are tested with patients, families, and hospital staff. Feedback is collected and used to refine the solutions. The patient information packet is improved based on user suggestions, the support group program is adjusted to better meet the emotional needs of patients, and the virtual reality experiences are fine-tuned.

Through the Design Thinking Path, the hospital team transformed a vague goal of improving patient experience into a concrete and user-centered solution. By empathizing with patients, defining the problem, ideating creative solutions, prototyping, and testing, the team generated innovative strategies to enhance the overall hospital experience.

Design thinking not only helps redefine complex problems but also fosters an environment of creativity, collaboration, and continuous improvement. It encourages a shift from traditional problem-centered thinking to user-centered thinking, resulting in solutions that genuinely address the needs and experiences of the people involved. This approach is particularly valuable when tackling problems that involve human interactions and emotions.

9. Structure and Solve the Problem Using Design Thinking

1. Explanation:

Chapter 9 introduces the practical application of Design Thinking to structure and solve complex problems. This chapter emphasizes how Design Thinking can transform the problem-solving process by putting human experiences, needs, and emotions at the forefront.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Phase 3: Ideate: The Ideate phase in Design Thinking encourages brainstorming and the generation of creative solutions. It fosters an environment where participants are free to think outside the box and explore unconventional approaches to problem-solving.

b. Phase 4: Prototype: Prototyping involves transforming ideas into tangible representations, allowing stakeholders to interact with potential solutions. Prototypes can be physical, digital, or conceptual, and they provide a practical way to test and refine concepts.

c. Phase 5: Test: The Test phase involves gathering feedback and insights by engaging users with prototypes. This iterative process allows for continuous improvement and ensures that the final solution aligns with user needs.

3. Examples:

Let’s explore the application of Design Thinking in solving a real-world problem:

Case Study: Redesigning a Public Park

A city park has experienced declining visitor numbers due to outdated facilities and a lack of engaging features. The city council decides to use Design Thinking to revitalize the park and attract more visitors.

a. Phase 3: Ideate

During the Ideate phase, a diverse team of city planners, designers, and local residents comes together for a brainstorming session. They aim to generate creative ideas for redesigning the park. Ideas include:

  1. Interactive Playgrounds: Designing interactive, nature-themed playgrounds that cater to children of all ages.
  2. Outdoor Fitness Equipment: Installing outdoor fitness equipment to promote healthy living and attract fitness enthusiasts.
  3. Picnic Zones: Creating cozy picnic zones with food vendors, allowing families to enjoy outdoor meals.
  4. Art Installations: Incorporating art installations and sculptures to inspire creativity.
  5. Community Gardens: Developing community gardens where residents can grow their own produce.

b. Phase 4: Prototype

After ideation, the team begins creating prototypes of the proposed features. They develop mock-ups of the interactive playgrounds, design outdoor fitness equipment layouts, and produce concept art for potential art installations. These prototypes aim to provide a tangible sense of the park’s future potential.

c. Phase 5: Test

In the Test phase, the city council and local residents are invited to experience and provide feedback on the prototypes. Families with children test the playground equipment, fitness enthusiasts try the outdoor gym, and artists evaluate the potential art installations. Their input helps refine the proposed features, addressing any concerns and ensuring they align with the needs and desires of the community.

Through the application of Design Thinking, the city park project shifts from a vague goal of park revitalization to a user-centered and innovative solution. The process fosters collaboration and creativity, and it ensures that the final park design genuinely caters to the community’s desires, fostering a greater sense of ownership among residents.

Design Thinking not only provides a structured approach to problem-solving but also infuses the process with a human-centered and innovative mindset. This methodology encourages continuous refinement and iteration, ultimately leading to solutions that are better aligned with the needs, experiences, and desires of the individuals the solution is intended to serve.

10. Sell the Solution: Core Message and Storyline

1. Explanation:

Chapter 10 explores the crucial phase of selling the solution. In this chapter, the authors emphasize the significance of effective communication in problem-solving and introduce key concepts related to crafting a persuasive core message and storyline.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Don’t Tell the Story of the Search, Tell the Story of the Solution: The core concept revolves around the idea that when presenting a solution, it’s vital to focus on the outcome rather than the journey. In other words, the communication should center on the benefits, impact, and value of the proposed solution, rather than the process of finding it.

b. The Pyramid Principle: The Pyramid Principle is a communication technique that suggests structuring information like a pyramid, with a single, clear, and compelling message at the top. This method ensures that the most critical information is presented first, followed by supporting details and evidence.

c. Pave the Way for a Dialogue: Effective communication should not be a one-way presentation but rather the initiation of a dialogue. Encouraging questions, discussion, and engagement with the audience is essential to gain buy-in and address concerns.

d. Design Your Storyline: Crafting a compelling storyline involves presenting the solution in a narrative form that engages and resonates with the audience. A well-designed storyline makes the solution relatable and memorable.

e. Go for Either a Grouping or an Argument: The authors introduce the concept of grouping, where information is organized into categories, or argument, where a clear point is presented with supporting evidence. Depending on the context and the audience, one of these approaches may be more effective in selling the solution.

3. Examples:

To illustrate the application of these concepts, let’s consider a real-world scenario:

Case Study: Enhancing Employee Wellbeing in a Corporate Setting

A human resources manager in a corporate organization has developed a comprehensive plan to enhance employee wellbeing. To sell this solution effectively, the manager employs the key concepts from Chapter 10:

a. Don’t Tell the Story of the Search, Tell the Story of the Solution: The manager begins the presentation by highlighting the positive outcomes of the wellbeing plan. They emphasize how it will boost employee morale, increase productivity, and reduce turnover. Instead of focusing on the process of researching wellbeing strategies, the manager highlights the end result.

b. The Pyramid Principle: The manager structures the presentation using the Pyramid Principle. They start with a clear, concise message: “Our new wellbeing plan will significantly improve employee satisfaction and performance.” Supporting data, such as statistics on increased job satisfaction and reduced absenteeism, is presented to reinforce this message.

c. Pave the Way for a Dialogue: During the presentation, the manager actively encourages questions and feedback from the audience, such as department heads and executives. This approach allows the manager to address concerns and adapt the plan based on input.

d. Design Your Storyline: The manager creates a compelling storyline that showcases employees benefiting from the wellbeing initiatives. The presentation includes stories of individuals who have experienced improved work-life balance, reduced stress, and increased job satisfaction through the plan.

e. Go for Either a Grouping or an Argument: The manager opts for an argumentative approach, presenting a clear and persuasive point: “Implementing this wellbeing plan is an essential step toward a more productive and satisfied workforce.” They support this argument with data and anecdotes to reinforce the message.

By applying these key concepts, the HR manager successfully sells the solution to enhance employee wellbeing. The presentation is structured to prioritize the most critical information, engage the audience in a dialogue, and present the solution in a compelling narrative that resonates with the organization’s goals and values.

In summary, effective communication in problem-solving is pivotal for gaining support and approval for proposed solutions. Crafting a persuasive core message and storyline, employing the Pyramid Principle, and engaging the audience in a dialogue all contribute to a successful sales pitch for the solution.

11. Sell the Solution: Recommendation Report and Delivery

1. Explanation:

Chapter 11 explores the critical phase of selling the solution, specifically focusing on the recommendation report and its effective delivery. This chapter delves into the final steps of problem solving, where the proposed solution is communicated and, ideally, accepted by stakeholders.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Manage Communications Throughout the Process: Effective communication is an ongoing process that extends beyond the final presentation. The chapter underscores the importance of managing communication with stakeholders consistently throughout the problem-solving journey, from initial discussions to the final recommendations.

b. Beware the PowerPoint Curse: The “PowerPoint Curse” highlights the danger of relying solely on presentation slides. Overloading presentations with text-heavy slides can lead to audience disengagement and miscommunication. The chapter advocates for a more thoughtful and engaging approach to communication.

c. Create an Effective, Modular Report: A modular report structure involves dividing the report into sections that can be presented independently. This structure allows for flexibility in addressing various stakeholders and tailoring the content to their specific interests and needs.

d. Develop the Content Pages: Content pages within the recommendation report are designed to convey key information clearly and concisely. These pages should focus on critical insights and recommendations, ensuring that stakeholders can quickly grasp the core message.

e. Make Quantitative Charts Relevant and Simple: When using quantitative data, it is essential to present charts and graphs that are clear, relevant, and easy to understand. Overly complex charts can confuse the audience and dilute the impact of the data.

f. Use Conceptual Charts Sparingly: Conceptual charts should be employed judiciously. While they can provide valuable context and insights, excessive use can overwhelm the audience. Conceptual charts should complement, not overshadow, the main message.

g. Trim the Deck Ruthlessly: The authors recommend a focused and concise approach to presentation decks. Unnecessary information should be removed to ensure that the core message remains clear and compelling.

3. Examples:

To illustrate these key concepts, let’s consider a real-world example:

Case Study: Reducing Energy Consumption in a Manufacturing Plant

A manufacturing company aims to reduce its energy consumption to achieve sustainability goals and cost savings. The project team uses the concepts from Chapter 11 to effectively communicate the solution:

a. Manage Communications Throughout the Process: The project team maintains regular communication with various stakeholders, including department heads, the board of directors, and employees, from the project’s inception. Updates and progress reports are shared to ensure that stakeholders are informed and engaged.

b. Beware the PowerPoint Curse: The team avoids creating traditional, text-heavy PowerPoint presentations. Instead, they opt for interactive presentations that incorporate visual elements, live demonstrations, and hands-on simulations to engage stakeholders and create a more memorable and impactful experience.

c. Create an Effective, Modular Report: The recommendation report is modular, with sections focused on different aspects of the solution. For instance, one section addresses energy-efficient equipment, while another covers employee training on energy-saving practices. This modular structure allows for tailored presentations to different stakeholder groups.

d. Develop the Content Pages: Within the report, content pages provide succinct summaries of key findings and recommendations. These pages highlight the projected cost savings, environmental benefits, and practical steps for implementation.

e. Make Quantitative Charts Relevant and Simple: When presenting data, the team uses clear and straightforward charts to show energy consumption trends before and after the proposed changes. These charts include monthly energy cost savings and reductions in carbon emissions, making the data easily understandable.

f. Use Conceptual Charts Sparingly: Conceptual charts are used to illustrate the broader context of sustainability in the manufacturing industry. These charts provide background information and context but are employed sparingly to avoid overwhelming stakeholders.

g. Trim the Deck Ruthlessly: The presentation deck is meticulously trimmed to remove any extraneous information. Only the most critical insights, financial projections, and proposed actions are retained, ensuring that the core message remains the focus of the presentation.

By applying these key concepts, the project team effectively communicates the solution to reduce energy consumption in the manufacturing plant. Stakeholders are engaged through interactive presentations, and the modular report structure allows for tailored communication to various groups. Clear and concise content pages, supported by relevant and simple quantitative data, ensure that the core message is conveyed convincingly. Additionally, the judicious use of conceptual charts and a ruthlessly trimmed presentation deck enhance the communication process.

In summary, effective communication of problem-solving recommendations is pivotal to securing buy-in and successful implementation. The principles outlined in Chapter 11 provide a structured and strategic approach to delivering persuasive recommendation reports and presentations, ultimately leading to the adoption of valuable solutions.

12. Application of the 4S Method

1. Explanation:

Chapter 12 of “Cracked It!: How to Solve Big Problems and Sell Solutions Like Top Strategy Consultants” is a culmination of the problem-solving process, showcasing the application of the 4S Method to address complex issues. This chapter serves as a practical demonstration of how the method can be employed to navigate real-world challenges effectively.

2. Key Concepts:

a. Case Study: The Kangaroo Opportunity: The central concept is the real-world case study, “The Kangaroo Opportunity.” This case exemplifies how the 4S Method can be applied to a complex business problem. The 4S Method, comprising State, Structure, Solve, and Sell, underlies the problem-solving process.

b. What Is the Problem?: The first step in problem-solving is to clearly define the problem. It involves using the TOSCA framework (Trouble, Owner, Success Criteria, Constraints, Actors) to determine the problem’s boundaries, stakeholders, and success criteria. In “The Kangaroo Opportunity” case, the problem revolves around launching a new product – a kangaroo meat-based snack – in the Australian market.

c. Structuring the Problem: Structuring the problem involves organizing the issue into logical components, such as using hypothesis pyramids and issue trees. It helps to break down the problem into manageable sub-problems and investigate the factors contributing to the issue. In the case study, structuring the problem could involve exploring consumer preferences, market competition, pricing, and distribution challenges for the kangaroo snack.

d. Solving the Problem: The Solve phase employs various degrees of analysis and problem-solving techniques to explore and develop potential solutions. In “The Kangaroo Opportunity” case, this might entail analyzing consumer feedback, evaluating pricing strategies, or researching market trends to identify opportunities for the new snack product.

e. Selling the Solution: Selling the solution involves creating a compelling recommendation report and presentation that persuades stakeholders to support and implement the proposed solutions. In the case study, this could mean developing a comprehensive strategy for marketing and launching the kangaroo snack, backed by market data and consumer insights.

3. Example:

Case Study: The Kangaroo Opportunity

a. What Is the Problem?: The case study revolves around a food company’s desire to launch a kangaroo meat-based snack in the Australian market. The problem is defined using the TOSCA framework:

  • Trouble: The company’s declining sales and need for a new product.
  • Owner: The food company’s leadership and marketing team.
  • Success Criteria: Successful market entry, profitability, and positive consumer reception.
  • Constraints: Budget limitations and regulatory requirements.
  • Actors: The company’s management, marketing team, potential customers, suppliers, and regulatory bodies.

b. Structuring the Problem: To structure the problem, the team might employ hypothesis pyramids and issue trees. For instance, they create a hypothesis pyramid to explore consumer preferences for snack foods and analyze market trends related to healthier snacks. Simultaneously, they construct an issue tree to dissect potential distribution challenges and pricing strategies.

c. Solving the Problem: In the Solve phase, the team conducts consumer surveys to gather feedback on potential kangaroo meat snacks. They also analyze competitor products and pricing strategies in the Australian snack market to identify opportunities for differentiation.

d. Selling the Solution: To sell the solution, the team compiles a recommendation report and presentation. This presentation outlines a comprehensive marketing and launch strategy, emphasizing the uniqueness of the kangaroo meat snack, its health benefits, and alignment with consumer trends. The report includes market research data, consumer feedback, and a detailed budget proposal to secure stakeholder buy-in.

Through this case study, we witness the practical application of the 4S Method. It demonstrates how this structured approach can be used to address complex problems, encompassing problem definition, problem structuring, solution development, and persuasive communication. In the end, the approach provides a systematic and effective way to tackle intricate real-world challenges and deliver actionable solutions.

13. Additional Reading

If you found “Cracked It!” interesting, you may also enjoy these similar books on problem-solving, consulting, and strategy:

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman: This book explores how people think and make decisions, offering insights into cognitive biases and how to approach problem-solving more effectively.
  2. “The McKinsey Way” by Ethan Rasiel: Written by a former McKinsey consultant, this book provides an insider’s perspective on McKinsey’s problem-solving methodologies and consulting techniques.
  3. The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries: This book focuses on a systematic approach to building and scaling a startup by validating ideas and solving problems through experimentation and innovation.
  4. “Made to Stick” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath: This book delves into what makes ideas memorable and persuasive, offering strategies for crafting compelling and sticky messages.
  5. Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne: The authors present a strategy framework that encourages businesses to create new, uncontested market spaces by redefining their industry boundaries and solving customer problems innovatively.
  6. “Consulting Demons: Inside the Unscrupulous World of Global Corporate Consulting” by Lewis Pinault: This book provides an insider’s look at the consulting industry, exploring the challenges and ethical dilemmas faced by consultants.
  7. “Design Thinking: Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value” by Thomas Lockwood: It emphasizes the role of design thinking in problem-solving, innovation, and creating customer-centric solutions.
  8. “Problem Solving 101: A Simple Book for Smart People” by Ken Watanabe: This book offers a straightforward and practical guide to problem-solving techniques, inspired by the principles of mathematics and engineering.
  9. “The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life” by Avinash K. Dixit and Barry J. Nalebuff: It delves into the principles of game theory and their application in strategy and decision-making.
  10. “Thinking in Systems: A Primer” by Donella H. Meadows: This book explores systems thinking, providing insights into understanding and solving complex problems through a holistic perspective.

These books cover a range of topics related to problem-solving, strategy, and consulting, offering valuable insights and techniques for addressing a variety of challenges in business and life.