Eight steps toward solving problems and creating solutions
Types of participants: Participants need to be involved in the problem, or in the product development process.
When using the Simplex method, the facilitator has to guide the
participants through the following eight stages. These stages are part
of a cycle, thus the whole process can be started from the beginning,
once it has been completed.
1. Problem Finding
The core problem needs to be defined. This can be accomplished by using
the following trigger questions:
- What kind of improvements would the company's customers
- How could we move towards these expectations in order to
- What are minor current problems and how could these evolve
into big problems?
- What are barriers to effectiveness at the work place and
how do these affect us?
- How can we improve the quality of our work or products?
- What can we learn from our environment, e.g. competitors,
- What is annoying or frustrating for us?
problem and focus on current issues. It can also be helpful to
look into the future and consider what will happen to the organisation,
the company, the market or the customers in coming years. For this,
the group should try to think in different dimensions, such as social,
political or legal changes.
If the group has not come up with a precise problem formulation at this
stage, there is no need to worry. The following two steps will aid in
the problem definition.
2. Fact Finding
In the second stage, the group tries to gather as much information
related to the problem as possible. When gathering this information the
group needs to keep the following aspects in mind:
- Think of good ideas competitors have used.
- Consider customer needs and desires.
- Take into account what has already been tried before.
- Consider required processes, parts, components or services
which may be part of the solution.
existing information. The group should try to list assumptions of
validity and check these on correctness.
By now, the group should have a good idea of what the problem is about
and what other factors are important for the problem. Now the
information previously generated needs to be clustered and a precise
problem formulation needs to be extracted from the previous findings.
The problem definition should neither be too broad nor too narrow. The
creator of the Simplex method, Min Basadur, suggests to ask "Why?" in
order to broaden the focus and "What's stopping it?" in order to narrow
If the problem is very complex it might have to broken into smaller
4. Idea Finding
In the fourth stage the group needs to generate as many ideas,
and solutions to the problem as possible. There are multiple
approaches to idea generation. The IAF database can provide plenty of
useful techniques in order to enhance idea generation, ranging from
simple brainstorming to complex methods such as TRIZ.
At this stage, ideas will not be evaluated. The group only needs to be
concerned with generating as many ideas as possible.
5. Selection and Evaluation
In the fifth stage, the group evaluates on the ideas generated
previously, evaluates and selects the best solution. The IAF database
provides numerous decision making methods, which can support this
Following-up, the group develops a timeline for the implementation
of the solution. This can be done by doing common project planning or
7. Sell Idea
Basically, this step involves presenting or selling this idea to the
people in charge, in a company or any large organisation. However, this
can also be applied to other situations, where a number of people have
influence on the decision-making process.
The solution is implemented. Based on the success of the
implementation, the Simplex cycle can be initiated again, if required.
Follow-Up Required: A follow-up is possible. As this method follows a cycle, the cycle can be restarted once it has been completed. This way a solution or a product can be refined over and over again.
Usual or Expected Outcomes: The group develops solutions for existing problems or generates new ideas for products or product development processes.
Source: Min Basadur