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Design Thinking: Recognize the type of the problem you’re dealing with

Regardless of who you are and what your background is, you have to solve many problems daily. So it's highly beneficial for you to know what kind of problem you're dealing with.In design thinking, we focus on the nature of the problem a lot. And it matters. Knowing the nature of the problem sets our expectations and allows us to manage our efforts. For example, if you're dealing with a wicked problem, it's not possible to find a solution right away. You need months of research, prototyping, testing, and iteration.Then let us break down the typical problems you deal with in an innovation project. There are three types of problem in design thinking:

  1. Simple Problems
  2. Ill-Defined Problems
  3. Wicked Problems


A problem exists when there is an undesirable situation you want to resolve, but no solutions are readily apparent. Each is triggered by a cause and a desirable outcome is being pursued by solving it.To solve it, you use a solution out of the pool of possible solutions. Sometimes you have to use a combination of solutions to deal with more complex problems. You can think of a solution as a pathway that takes from an undesirable situation to an alternative and improved one.


A simple problem is clear in terms of our understanding of the situation. The cause and desirable outcomes are clear as well as different pathways to solving it.

simple problems
Example of Simple problem

Our community and their expectations of us are growing. In order to serve them properly, we need a reliable communication channel. The problem or the undesirable situation here is the lack of communication with the community. There are a number of solutions out there like Mailchimp that help you just do that. And the desirable outcome is when you can regularly broadcast your messages to your community.


An ill-defined problem is an undesirable situation that’s unclear what exactly its cause is. There are several potential causes, desirable outcomes, and solutions.

Ill defined problem
Example of ill-defined problem

We know that the number of orders has increasingly decreased in the past few months. This is our undesirable situation.We realized the traffic to the online shop has decreased drastically as well. Instantly we think of launching an aggressive marketing campaign and pour more traffic into the website. However, the cause of the decrease in traffic may be seasonal or temporal. On the other hand, by looking further in the analytics, we realize the bounce rate of the online shop is extremely high, and only 0.5% of those who don’t bounce make a purchase. Poor UX of the online shop may be another candidate for the cause of the problem.


A wicked problem is a vague undesirable situation about which we have some knowledge and some guesses about the causes and potential solutions.

Example of a wicked problem

Climate change!Undesirable situation: The climate is changing rapidly beyond our capacity to control it. The causes? It can be many: some of which have been proven and some have not. Wicked problems are systematic problems. Climate change is a big systematic problem and contains several subsystems that each cause serious undesirable situations. For example, poverty is one of the main drivers of climate change. When people are poor, they care less about their quality of consumption. And often it’s the cheaper products that yield more negative environmental impacts on the planet.In this article, we offered you a rundown on the types of problems you often deal with in an innovation project. We hope you find it useful. In any case, please share your feedback with us at contact@bonanza.design. We’d love to hear from you.