This post follows on from the 4 lines to understand a problem, and looks at how we can use a simple MOPT table to start solving that problem.
In last week’s post, we looked at an easy way to sketch out various aspects of a problem, according to three parts:
- Rational – What do I understand about this? (objective, facts and data)
- Emotional – How do I feel about this? (subjective, feelings and stories)
- Political – Who else is affected by this? (associative, connections and systems)
These three lenses give us a structured way to approach and better understand a problem space. You might recall I tried to tackle the problem: I’m always late filling in my timesheet.
Solving the problem, step 1: look for clues
So where does the MOPT come in? I’ll get to that. Firstly, you get the sheet you sketched before, where you jotted down notes and pictures about the rational, emotional and political parts of your problem. Then you go back over it, looking for clues that could give rise to ideas to solve that problem. Here’s mine from last week, where I’ve circled a few clues:
You might notice from my sheet that the two things I’ve circled in the rational space are like sub-problems, or problems within the larger problem. That’s good to highlight. You might also find connections that you hadn’t seen before. Notice the arrow in mine, where I’ve connected the fact that I don’t know how to classify all the things I do in the timesheet, with Sarah the Project Manager, who certainly does. This will lend itself nicely to an idea for a solution.
If you’re lucky, you might also find the odd valuable insight. One of the things I wrote in the political part of my sheet is that it’s hard for the business to track where time is spent. Afterward it occurred to me: if the business knows what projects we have on, and who is occupied on each project, then it should already have a pretty good idea of where people’s time has been spent, rather than starting each week blank. Nice a-Ha moment.
Solving the problem, step 2: draw up a MOPT table
Once we have a set of clues for ideas, we can move on to step 2. At the heart of step 2 is the now famous (and not-so-secret) innovation question: “How might we [solve this problem]?“. ‘How might we’ as an approach was invented by Procter and Gamble, and popularised by companies like IDEO and Google. I’m a big fan, because it’s a great way to have a positive mindset about any problem, and it moves ideas in more useful directions.
The things is, the ‘we’ in ‘How might we…’ is sometimes left out of that ideas-generation mindset. In other words: ‘we’ are the ones coming up with ideas, but ‘we’ may not be in the final solution. And that’s where MOPT comes in. MOPT stands for:
- Me – How might I solve this…?
- Others – How might others solve this…?
- Processes – How might processes solve this…?
- Tools – How might tools/technology solve this…?
Straight away, we have a little bit of structure with which to start fossicking around for ideas.
So moving on from step 1, we transfer each of those clues over to a new piece of paper, and draw up a table, with a row for each clue. There’s 4 other columns, for Me, Others, Processes and Tools:
Now, either by yourself or as a team, you can tackle each cell of the table separately, and come up with a range of ‘How might…’ questions, depending on the clue, e.g. “How might I improve this so that I can recall everything I do?” or “How might I solve this so that I don’t even need to recall everything I do?”
I really like this, because straight away you’re going to get more ideas than you otherwise would have, because you’re setting up all these different cells to fill. And like all good brainstorming, not all the ideas need to be practical yet; it’s always good to go for quantity first, and see if some ideas lead to other ideas.
There’s not a lot of space in those little squares, so treat each cell as a placeholder for your thinking, a springboard to another piece of paper, or another part of the whiteboard. Here’s where I got to with mine:
Note how a couple of cells just didn’t apply, and that’s fine. Mixing written notes and pictures is also fine. What this does is it arranges our thinking spatially, rather than just as a list… or with no form at all. Once you fill your MOPT table, you can go back over it and pick out the ideas that are most resonant and relevant.
How was it for you?
Go on, give it a go, you might be surprised by the insight this reveals to you. If you do give it a try, let me know how it goes, and if you think it could be improved upon.
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