Innovative Mindset Challenge Video 3: Determine the Cause


You wouldn’t want your tooth pulled out if you only had a small piece of food stuck in it. You wouldn’t want to replace your computer just because the plug came out of the outlet. Just so, you don’t want to create an innovative solution to a problem, before you understand the cause.

I’m Elise with Woodworth Enterprises, this is the third video in our Innovative Mindset Challenge Series. I talk a lot about identifying the symptoms then digging for the cause of a problem. In the last video, I talk about framing the problem to get a clear picture of what is happening. Another way to think of that is recognizing symptoms. Sometimes symptoms at work can be really bad and result in someone blowing the whistle, or organizing a walk out. Other times they might just be annoyances, delays or complaints. Now it’s time to determine the cause. The most effective way to do that is by asking (and finding the answer to) thoughtful questions.

What is a thoughtful question you ask? These are three characteristics of a thoughtful question: They make you think, they don’t have a yes or no answer and they seek to clarify their subjects.

One of the simplest thoughtful questions you can ask is, why? Earlier in the year, we used the “5 Why’s” exercise to explore why training is broken. I’ll link to that video in the article so you can see it in action. Using this exercise, you ask why at a problem until you get to the root cause. At least 5 times.

Framing a problem and determining the cause are so important it makes up the first phase of our Ignite Model when we work with a new client. We use an insight tool we developed to collect insight from the entire organization, determine strengths, areas of opportunity and answer thoughtful questions that lead to successful innovation. The whole process takes about a month and accomplishes what larger analyst firms could take years to assess.

As you look at the issue you have framed, it’s time for the next step in the innovative mindset challenge. keeping progress and resolution in mind, work to determine the cause of the obstacle your focused on. Ask and answer at least 5 thoughtful questions of your issue and see where that takes you. Don’t be afraid to keep digging. Once you think you have the cause figured out, look at the framed problem and the cause together. If you want to work ahead for next week, identify the elements of the cause you control and those you don’t.

If you’re thinking you don’t have time for this, or if it might be too difficult to create a change remember these words from Elon Musk,

“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.”

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