Concepts & Frameworks

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This page covers ideas, concepts, and frameworks that those interested in tackling big problems may find useful. 

What is a Problem?

‘Problem’ is a commonly used term but its implicit definition varies.  It can work against making effective decisions.  It helps to have a clear definition and to use it consistently.  For more, download file

Business Models

Business models are essential to solving big problems because they are the means by which solutions (products or services) are created and delivered in an economically viable manner.  Initiatives that focus exclusively on innovating products and services run the risk of failure by not conceptualizing an effective business model.  In some instances, the creative insight is entirely about the business model and not about the product or service, which are well known (e.g., bringing safe maternity medical care to low income women with no health insurance).  A business model depicts important aspects of an organization and the relationships among them.  A widely used framework for business models can be found here and a list of references on the topic can be downloaded here

Positive Deviance - A Problem Solving Technique

Positive deviance is an approach to discovering effective solutions for big problems.  It is based on the belief that any population afflicted by a big problem (e.g., malnutrition, obesity) probably has within it some members who have figured out a good solution and are already practicing it.  These people are the outliers in the population or those who deviate positively from the norm.  Their solution is not widely known or not known at all.  So, the problem solver’s task is to use fieldwork to discover this existing solution and disseminate it widely in the population.  Solutions to big problems sometimes fail because they are imported and imposed by outsiders; positive deviance is about home-grown solutions.  The technique is described in the book The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems written by Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin.  There is also a website devoted to it.  Positive deviance is not the only way to solve big problems but it is among the many useful ways.