Problem Six is a rapid prototyping tool to quickly analyse social challenges and ideate potential solutions.
Social challenges are often extremely complex and it can often be hard to know where to start or where energy should be channeled. Alternatively, sometimes a fresh approach to a well-known challenge is also needed. Problem Six is a useful ideation tool to quickly navigate a path through complex decision-making.
It is recommended that the process be completed in a group or workshop setting to ensure a range of divergent views are captured, but the process can also be completed as a solo, reflective exercise. Similarly, the process may be worked through in one session, or over many days—allowing reflection between each step.
Each step in the process follows the same format:
The rationale for 6 options, especially when using this framework as an initial drafting tool, is to help prompt additional thought when less than 6 options have been brainstormed, and to avoid "analysis paralysis" of infinite brainstorming. It should be noted, however, that 6 may be substituted for another number is desired.)
NB: The topic of family and domestic violence is used throughout as a case study for how to utilise the framework.
Write short, single, statements that summarise your lofty vision for the future. The statements should be high level and describe an idealistic future state.
Select the statement that best represents your desired state.
Social issues are typically complex and nuanced—impacting and being impacted by myriad stakeholders and factors. Therefore, it is advantageous to drill down into specific demographics or segments of focus. The scope of step two is to identify key groups affected by this problem, not the people who may be targeted with our actions. This is a subtle but important differentiation.
Brainstorm key populations and segments affected.
Select a population you'd like to focus on. This might be based on need, population size, intersection with your own experience or work, or other factors. It might be necessary to pause the process and take time to research these demographics in more detail.
This chosen focus population will also generate a more nuanced version / a sub-version of your desired state statement. For example: "An Australia where women do not experience violence at the hands of men".
What are the key barriers to achieving the desired state for your focus population? These should be thematic and broad in nature.
Brainstorm key barriers.
Select the barrier that, if removed, would likely have the most profound effect.
Brainstorm ways in which the barrier might be reduced, mitigated, or avoided.
Select an option that you could most feasibly action. This should be based on a combination of experience, resourcing, interest, scope, and any other factors you think important.
Problem Six ultimately resembles a "choose your own adventure"—where you brainstorm options, choose an option to pursue in more detail, and repeat. Therefore, it can be useful to complete the exercise several times, choosing different branches to explore each time.
Click here to download an A3-sized PDF of the canvas.