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Problem Solving Resources

Case studies, problem solving related topics.

What is Problem Solving?.

Quality Glossary Definition: Problem solving

Problem solving is the act of defining a problem; determining the cause of the problem; identifying, prioritizing, and selecting alternatives for a solution; and implementing a solution.

Problem Solving visual

Problem Solving Chart

The Problem-Solving Process

In order to effectively manage and run a successful organization, leadership must guide their employees and develop problem-solving techniques. Finding a suitable solution for issues can be accomplished by following the basic four-step problem-solving process and methodology outlined below.

1. Define the problem

Diagnose the situation so that your focus is on the problem, not just its symptoms. Helpful problem-solving techniques include using flowcharts to identify the expected steps of a process and cause-and-effect diagrams to define and analyze root causes .

The sections below help explain key problem-solving steps. These steps support the involvement of interested parties, the use of factual information, comparison of expectations to reality, and a focus on root causes of a problem. You should begin by:

2. Generate alternative solutions

Postpone the selection of one solution until several problem-solving alternatives have been proposed. Considering multiple alternatives can significantly enhance the value of your ideal solution. Once you have decided on the "what should be" model, this target standard becomes the basis for developing a road map for investigating alternatives. Brainstorming and team problem-solving techniques are both useful tools in this stage of problem solving.

Many alternative solutions to the problem should be generated before final evaluation. A common mistake in problem solving is that alternatives are evaluated as they are proposed, so the first acceptable solution is chosen, even if it’s not the best fit. If we focus on trying to get the results we want, we miss the potential for learning something new that will allow for real improvement in the problem-solving process.

3. Evaluate and select an alternative

Skilled problem solvers use a series of considerations when selecting the best alternative. They consider the extent to which:

4. Implement and follow up on the solution

Leaders may be called upon to direct others to implement the solution, "sell" the solution, or facilitate the implementation with the help of others. Involving others in the implementation is an effective way to gain buy-in and support and minimize resistance to subsequent changes.

Regardless of how the solution is rolled out, feedback channels should be built into the implementation. This allows for continuous monitoring and testing of actual events against expectations. Problem solving, and the techniques used to gain clarity, are most effective if the solution remains in place and is updated to respond to future changes.

You can also search articles , case studies , and publications  for problem solving resources.

Innovative Business Management Using TRIZ

Introduction To 8D Problem Solving: Including Practical Applications and Examples

The Quality Toolbox

Root Cause Analysis: The Core of Problem Solving and Corrective Action

One Good Idea: Some Sage Advice ( Quality Progress ) The person with the problem just wants it to go away quickly, and the problem-solvers also want to resolve it in as little time as possible because they have other responsibilities. Whatever the urgency, effective problem-solvers have the self-discipline to develop a complete description of the problem.

Diagnostic Quality Problem Solving: A Conceptual Framework And Six Strategies  ( Quality Management Journal ) This paper contributes a conceptual framework for the generic process of diagnosis in quality problem solving by identifying its activities and how they are related.

Weathering The Storm ( Quality Progress ) Even in the most contentious circumstances, this approach describes how to sustain customer-supplier relationships during high-stakes problem solving situations to actually enhance customer-supplier relationships.

The Right Questions ( Quality Progress ) All problem solving begins with a problem description. Make the most of problem solving by asking effective questions.

Solving the Problem ( Quality Progress ) Brush up on your problem-solving skills and address the primary issues with these seven methods.

Refreshing Louisville Metro’s Problem-Solving System  ( Journal for Quality and Participation ) Organization-wide transformation can be tricky, especially when it comes to sustaining any progress made over time. In Louisville Metro, a government organization based in Kentucky, many strategies were used to enact and sustain meaningful transformation.


Quality Improvement Associate Certification--CQIA

Certified Quality Improvement Associate Question Bank

Lean Problem-Solving Tools

Problem Solving Using A3

NEW   Root Cause Analysis E-Learning

Quality 101

Making the Connection In this exclusive QP webcast, Jack ReVelle, ASQ Fellow and author, shares how quality tools can be combined to create a powerful problem-solving force.

Adapted from The Executive Guide to Improvement and Change , ASQ Quality Press.

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problem solution organization definition


Are You Solving the Right Problem?

Most firms aren’t, and that undermines their innovation efforts.

Reprint: R1209F

The rigor with which a problem is defined is the most important factor in finding a good solution. Many organizations, however, are not proficient at articulating their problems and identifying which ones are crucial to their strategies.

They may even be trying to solve the wrong problems—missing opportunities and wasting resources in the process. The key is to ask the right questions.

The author describes a process that his firm, InnoCentive, has used to help clients define and articulate business, technical, social, and policy challenges and then present them to an online community of more than 250,000 solvers. The four-step process consists of asking a series of questions and using the answers to create a problem statement that will elicit novel ideas from an array of experts.

EnterpriseWorks/VITA, a nonprofit organization, used this process to find a low-cost, lightweight, and convenient product that expands access to clean drinking water in the developing world.

“If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it,” Albert Einstein said.

Those were wise words, but from what I have observed, most organizations don’t heed them when tackling innovation projects. Indeed, when developing new products, processes, or even businesses, most companies aren’t sufficiently rigorous in defining the problems they’re attempting to solve and articulating why those issues are important. Without that rigor, organizations miss opportunities, waste resources, and end up pursuing innovation initiatives that aren’t aligned with their strategies. How many times have you seen a project go down one path only to realize in hindsight that it should have gone down another? How many times have you seen an innovation program deliver a seemingly breakthrough result only to find that it can’t be implemented or it addresses the wrong problem? Many organizations need to become better at asking the right questions so that they tackle the right problems.

I offer here a process for defining problems that any organization can employ on its own. My firm, InnoCentive, has used it to help more than 100 corporations, government agencies, and foundations improve the quality and efficiency of their innovation efforts and, as a result, their overall performance. Through this process, which we call challenge-driven innovation, clients define and articulate their business, technical, social, and policy issues and present them as challenges to a community of more than 250,000 solvers—scientists, engineers, and other experts who hail from 200 countries—on, our innovation marketplace. Successful solvers have earned awards of $5,000 to $1 million.

Since our launch, more than 10 years ago, we have managed more than 2,000 problems and solved more than half of them—a much higher proportion than most organizations achieve on their own. Indeed, our success rates have improved dramatically over the years (34% in 2006, 39% in 2009, and 57% in 2011), which is a function of the increasing quality of the questions we pose and of our solver community. Interestingly, even unsolved problems have been tremendously valuable to many clients, allowing them to cancel ill-fated programs much earlier than they otherwise would have and then redeploy their resources.

In our early years, we focused on highly specific technical problems, but we have since expanded, taking on everything from basic R&D and product development to the health and safety of astronauts to banking services in developing countries. We now know that the rigor with which a problem is defined is the most important factor in finding a suitable solution. But we’ve seen that most organizations are not proficient at articulating their problems clearly and concisely. Many have considerable difficulty even identifying which problems are crucial to their missions and strategies.

In fact, many clients have realized while working with us that they may not be tackling the right issues. Consider a company that engages InnoCentive to find a lubricant for its manufacturing machinery. This exchange ensues:

InnoCentive staffer: “Why do you need the lubricant?”

Client’s engineer: “Because we’re now expecting our machinery to do things it was not designed to do, and it needs a particular lubricant to operate.”

InnoCentive staffer: “Why don’t you replace the machinery?”

Client’s engineer: “Because no one makes equipment that exactly fits our needs.”

This raises a deeper question: Does the company need the lubricant, or does it need a new way to make its product? It could be that rethinking the manufacturing process would give the firm a new basis for competitive advantage. (Asking questions until you get to the root cause of a problem draws from the famous Five Whys problem-solving technique developed at Toyota and employed in Six Sigma.)

The Problem-Definition Process

Establish the need for a solution, what is the.

basic need?

desired outcome?

Who stands to

benefit and why?

Justify the need

Is the effort.

aligned with our strategy?

What are the

desired benefits for the company, and how will we measure them?

How will we

ensure that a solution is implemented?

Contextualize the problem

What approaches have, what have others.

internal and external constraints on implementing a solution?

Write the problem statement

Is the problem.

actually many problems?

What requirements must

a solution meet?

Which problem solvers

should we engage?

What information and

language should the problem statement include?

What do solvers

need to submit?

What incentives do

solvers need?

How will solutions

be evaluated and success measured?

The example is like many we’ve seen: Someone in the bowels of the organization is assigned to fix a very specific, near-term problem. But because the firm doesn’t employ a rigorous process for understanding the dimensions of the problem, leaders miss an opportunity to address underlying strategic issues. The situation is exacerbated by what Stefan Thomke and Donald Reinertsen have identified as the fallacy of “The sooner the project is started, the sooner it will be finished.” (See “Six Myths of Product Development,” HBR May 2012.) Organizational teams speed toward a solution, fearing that if they spend too much time defining the problem, their superiors will punish them for taking so long to get to the starting line.

Ironically, that approach is more likely to waste time and money and reduce the odds of success than one that strives at the outset to achieve an in-depth understanding of the problem and its importance to the firm. With this in mind, we developed a four-step process for defining and articulating problems, which we have honed with our clients. It consists of asking a series of questions and using the answers to create a thorough problem statement. This process is important for two reasons. First, it rallies the organization around a shared understanding of the problem, why the firm should tackle it, and the level of resources it should receive. Firms that don’t engage in this process often allocate too few resources to solving major problems or too many to solving low-priority or wrongly defined ones. It’s useful to assign a value to the solution: An organization will be more willing to devote considerable time and resources to an effort that is shown to represent a $100 million market opportunity than to an initiative whose value is much less or is unclear. Second, the process helps an organization cast the widest possible net for potential solutions, giving internal and external experts in disparate fields the information they need to crack the problem.

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problem solution organization definition

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Nonprofits and the Social Sectors

To illustrate how the process works, we’ll describe an initiative to expand access to clean drinking water undertaken by the nonprofit EnterpriseWorks/VITA, a division of Relief International. EWV’s mission is to foster economic growth and raise the standard of living in developing countries by expanding access to technologies and helping entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses.

The organization chose Jon Naugle, its technical director, as the initiative’s “problem champion.” Individuals in this role should have a deep understanding of the field or domain and be capable program administrators. Because problem champions may also be charged with implementing solutions, a proven leader with the authority, responsibility, and resources to see the project through can be invaluable in this role, particularly for a larger and more strategic undertaking. Naugle, an engineer with more than 25 years of agricultural and rural-development experience in East and West Africa and the Caribbean, fit the bill. He was supported by specialists who understood local market conditions, available materials, and other critical issues related to the delivery of drinking water.

Step 1: Establish the Need for a Solution

The purpose of this step is to articulate the problem in the simplest terms possible: “We are looking for X in order to achieve Z as measured by W.” Such a statement, akin to an elevator pitch, is a call to arms that clarifies the importance of the issue and helps secure resources to address it. This initial framing answers three questions:

What is the basic need?

This is the essential problem, stated clearly and concisely. It is important at this stage to focus on the need that’s at the heart of the problem instead of jumping to a solution. Defining the scope is also important. Clearly, looking for lubricant for a piece of machinery is different from seeking a radically new manufacturing process.

The basic need EWV identified was access to clean drinking water for the estimated 1.1 billion people in the world who lack it. This is a pressing issue even in areas that have plenty of rainfall, because the water is not effectively captured, stored, and distributed.

What is the desired outcome?

Answering this question requires understanding the perspectives of customers and other beneficiaries. (The Five Whys approach can be very helpful.) Again, avoid the temptation to favor a particular solution or approach. This question should be addressed qualitatively and quantitatively whenever possible. A high-level but specific goal, such as “improving fuel efficiency to 100 mpg by 2020,” can be helpful at this stage.

In answering this question, Naugle and his team realized that the outcome had to be more than access to water; the access had to be convenient. Women and children in countries such as Uganda often must walk long distances to fetch water from valleys and then carry it uphill to their villages. The desired outcome EWV defined was to provide water for daily family needs without requiring enormous expenditures of time and energy.

Who stands to benefit and why?

Answering this question compels an organization to identify all potential customers and beneficiaries. It is at this stage that you understand whether, say, you are solving a lubricant problem for the engineer or for the head of manufacturing—whose definitions of success may vary considerably.

If the problem you want to solve is industrywide, it’s crucial to understand why the market has failed to address it.

By pondering this question, EWV came to see that the benefits would accrue to individuals and families as well as to regions and countries. Women would spend less time walking to retrieve water, giving them more time for working in the field or in outside employment that would bring their families needed income. Children would be able to attend school. And over the longer term, regions and countries would benefit from the improved education and productivity of the population.

Step 2: Justify the Need

The purpose of answering the questions in this step is to explain why your organization should attempt to solve the problem.

Is the effort aligned with our strategy?

In other words, will satisfying the need serve the organization’s strategic goals? It is not unusual for an organization to be working on problems that are no longer in sync with its strategy or mission. In that case, the effort (and perhaps the whole initiative) should be reconsidered.

In the case of EWV, simply improving access to clean drinking water wouldn’t be enough; to fit the organization’s mission, the solution should generate economic development and opportunities for local businesses. It needed to involve something that people would buy.

In addition, you should consider whether the problem fits with your firm’s priorities. Since EWV’s other projects included providing access to affordable products such as cookstoves and treadle pumps, the drinking water project was appropriate.

What are the desired benefits for the company, and how will we measure them?

In for-profit companies, the desired benefit could be to reach a revenue target, attain a certain market share, or achieve specific cycle-time improvements. EWV hoped to further its goal of being a recognized leader in helping the world’s poor by transferring technology through the private sector. That benefit would be measured by market impact: How many families are paying for the solution? How is it affecting their lives? Are sales and installation creating jobs? Given the potential benefits, EWV deemed the priority to be high.

How will we ensure that a solution is implemented?

Assume that a solution is found. Someone in the organization must be responsible for carrying it out—whether that means installing a new manufacturing technology, launching a new business, or commercializing a product innovation. That person could be the problem champion, but he or she could also be the manager of an existing division, a cross-functional team, or a new department.

At EWV, Jon Naugle was also put in charge of carrying out the solution. In addition to his technical background, Naugle had a track record of successfully implementing similar projects. For instance, he had served as EWV’s country director in Niger, where he oversaw a component of a World Bank pilot project to promote small-scale private irrigation. His part of the project involved getting the private sector to manufacture treadle pumps and manually drill wells.

It is important at this stage to initiate a high-level conversation in the organization about the resources a solution might require. This can seem premature—after all, you’re still defining the problem, and the field of possible solutions could be very large—but it’s actually not too early to begin exploring what resources your organization is willing and able to devote to evaluating solutions and then implementing the best one. Even at the outset, you may have an inkling that implementing a solution will be much more expensive than others in the organization realize. In that case, it’s important to communicate a rough estimate of the money and people that will be required and to make sure that the organization is willing to continue down this path. The result of such a discussion might be that some constraints on resourcing must be built into the problem statement. Early on in its drinking water project, EWV set a cap on how much it would devote to initial research and the testing of possible solutions.

Now that you have laid out the need for a solution and its importance to the organization, you must define the problem in detail. This involves applying a rigorous method to ensure that you have captured all the information that someone—including people in fields far removed from your industry—might need to solve the problem.

Step 3: Contextualize the Problem

Examining past efforts to find a solution can save time and resources and generate highly innovative thinking. If the problem is industrywide, it’s crucial to understand why the market has failed to address it.

How Well-Defined Problems Lead to Breakthrough Solutions

The subarctic oil problem.

More than 20 years after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, cleanup teams operating in subarctic waters still struggled because oil became so viscous at low temperatures that it was difficult to pump from barges to onshore collection stations.

How the Problem Was Defined

In its search for a solution, the Oil Spill Recovery Institute framed the problem as one of “materials viscosity” rather than “oil cleanup” and used language that was not specific to the petroleum industry. The goal was to attract novel suggestions from many fields.

A chemist in the cement industry was awarded $20,000 for proposing a modification of commercially available construction equipment that would vibrate the frozen oil, keeping it fluid.

The ALS Research Problem

By the late 2000s, researchers trying to develop a cure or treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) had not made much progress. One major obstacle was the inability to detect and track the progression of the disease accurately and quickly. Because researchers could not know precisely what stage ALS sufferers had reached, they greatly increased the pool of participants in clinical trials and lengthened their studies, which drove up costs so much that few treatments were developed and evaluated.

Instead of framing its initiative as a search for a cure, Prize4Life, a nonprofit organization, focused on making ALS research feasible and effective. The solution it sought was a biomarker that would enable faster and more-accurate detection and measurement of the progression of the disease.

In 2011, a researcher from Beth Israel Hospital in Boston was paid $1 million for a noninvasive, painless, and low-cost approach, which detects ALS and assesses its progression by measuring changes in an electrical current traveling through muscle. This biomarker lowers the cost of ALS research by providing accurate and timely data that allow researchers to conduct shorter studies with fewer patients.

The Solar Flare Problem

In 2009 NASA decided it needed a better way to forecast solar flares in order to protect astronauts and satellites in space and power grids on Earth. The model it had been using for the past 30 years predicted whether radiation from a solar flare would reach Earth with only a four-hour lead time and no more than 50% accuracy.

NASA did not ask potential solvers simply to find a better way to predict solar flares; instead, it pitched the problem as a data challenge, calling on experts with analytic backgrounds to use one of the agency’s greatest assets—30 years of space weather data—to develop a forecasting model. This data-driven approach not only invited solvers from various fields but also enabled NASA to provide instant feedback, using its archived data, on the accuracy of proposed models.

A semiretired radio-frequency engineer living in rural New Hampshire used data analysis and original predictive algorithms to develop a forecasting model that provided an eight-hour lead time and 85% accuracy. He was awarded $30,000 for this solution.

What approaches have we tried?

The aim here is to find solutions that might already exist in your organization and identify those that it has disproved. By answering this question, you can avoid reinventing the wheel or going down a dead end.

In previous efforts to expand access to clean water, EWV had offered products and services ranging from manually drilled wells for irrigation to filters for household water treatment. As with all its projects, EWV identified products that low-income consumers could afford and, if possible, that local entrepreneurs could manufacture or service. As Naugle and his team revisited those efforts, they realized that both solutions worked only if a water source, such as surface water or a shallow aquifer, was close to the household. As a result, they decided to focus on rainwater—which falls everywhere in the world to a greater or lesser extent—as a source that could reach many more people. More specifically, the team turned its attention to the concept of rainwater harvesting. “Rainwater is delivered directly to the end user,” Naugle says. “It’s as close as you can get to a piped water system without having a piped water supply.”

What have others tried?

EWV’s investigation of previous attempts at rainwater harvesting involved reviewing research on the topic, conducting five field studies, and surveying 20 countries to ask what technology was being used, what was and was not working, what prevented or encouraged the use of various solutions, how much the solutions cost, and what role government played.

“One of the key things we learned from the surveys,” Naugle says, “was that once you have a hard roof—which many people do—to use as a collection surface, the most expensive thing is storage.”

Here was the problem that needed to be solved. EWV found that existing solutions for storing rainwater, such as concrete tanks, were too expensive for low-income families in developing countries, so households were sharing storage tanks. But because no one took ownership of the communal facilities, they often fell into disrepair. Consequently, Naugle and his team homed in on the concept of a low-cost household rainwater-storage device.

Their research into prior solutions surfaced what seemed initially like a promising approach: storing rainwater in a 525-gallon jar that was almost as tall as an adult and three times as wide. In Thailand, they learned, 5 million of those jars had been deployed over five years. After further investigation, however, they found that the jars were made of cement, which was available in Thailand at a low price. More important, the country’s good roads made it possible to manufacture the jars in one location and transport them in trucks around the country. That solution wouldn’t work in areas that had neither cement nor high-quality roads. Indeed, through interviews with villagers in Uganda, EWV found that even empty polyethylene barrels large enough to hold only 50 gallons of water were difficult to carry along a path. It became clear that a viable storage solution had to be light enough to be carried some distance in areas without roads.

What are the internal and external constraints on implementing a solution?

Now that you have a better idea of what you want to accomplish, it’s time to revisit the issue of resources and organizational commitment: Do you have the necessary support for soliciting and then evaluating possible solutions? Are you sure that you can obtain the money and the people to implement the most promising one?

External constraints are just as important to evaluate: Are there issues concerning patents or intellectual-property rights? Are there laws and regulations to be considered? Answering these questions may require consultation with various stakeholders and experts.

Do you have the necessary support for soliciting and evaluating possible solutions? Do you have the money and the people to implement the most promising one?

EWV’s exploration of possible external constraints included examining government policies regarding rainwater storage. Naugle and his team found that the governments of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Vietnam supported the idea, but the strongest proponent was Uganda’s minister of water and the environment, Maria Mutagamba. Consequently, EWV decided to test the storage solution in Uganda.

Step 4: Write the Problem Statement

Now it’s time to write a full description of the problem you’re seeking to solve and the requirements the solution must meet. The problem statement, which captures all that the organization has learned through answering the questions in the previous steps, helps establish a consensus on what a viable solution would be and what resources would be required to achieve it.

A full, clear description also helps people both inside and outside the organization quickly grasp the issue. This is especially important because solutions to complex problems in an industry or discipline often come from experts in other fields (see “Getting Unusual Suspects to Solve R&D Puzzles,” HBR May 2007). For example, the method for moving viscous oil from spills in Arctic and subarctic waters from collection barges to disposal tanks came from a chemist in the cement industry, who responded to the Oil Spill Recovery Institute’s description of the problem in terms that were precise but not specific to the petroleum industry. Thus the institute was able to solve in a matter of months a challenge that had stumped petroleum engineers for years. (To read the institute’s full problem statement, visit .)

Here are some questions that can help you develop a thorough problem statement:

Is the problem actually many problems?

The aim here is to drill down to root causes. Complex, seemingly insoluble issues are much more approachable when broken into discrete elements.

For EWV, this meant making it clear that the solution needed to be a storage product that individual households could afford, that was light enough to be easily transported on poor-quality roads or paths, and that could be easily maintained.

What requirements must a solution meet?

EWV conducted extensive on-the-ground surveys with potential customers in Uganda to identify the must-have versus the nice-to-have elements of a solution. (See the sidebar “Elements of a Successful Solution.”) It didn’t matter to EWV whether the solution was a new device or an adaptation of an existing one. Likewise, the solution didn’t need to be one that could be mass-produced. That is, it could be something that local small-scale entrepreneurs could manufacture.

Elements of a Successful Solution

EnterpriseWorks/VITA surveyed potential customers in Uganda to develop a list of must-have and nice-to-have elements for a product that would provide access to clean drinking water. The winning solution, shown here in a Ugandan village, met all the criteria.

1. A price, including installation, of no more than $20

2. Storage capacity of at least 125 gallons

3. A weight light enough for one adult to carry a half mile on rough paths

4. Material that would prevent deterioration of water quality

5. An estimate of the cost of operating and maintaining the device over three years and a clear explanation of how to repair and replace components

6. A means, such as a filter, of removing gross organic matter from the incoming rain stream

7. A means, such as a tap or a pump, of extracting water without contaminating the contents of the unit

8. A method for completely draining the water and cleaning the system


1. An aesthetically pleasing design

2. Additional functionality so that the unit could be used for multiple purposes

3. Features such as a modular design or salvageable parts that would add value to the device after its lifetime

Experts in rainwater harvesting told Naugle and his team that their target price of $20 was unachievable, which meant that subsidies would be required. But a subsidized product was against EWV’s strategy and philosophy.

Which problem solvers should we engage?

The dead end EWV hit in seeking a $20 solution from those experts led the organization to conclude that it needed to enlist as many experts outside the field as possible. That is when EWV decided to engage InnoCentive and its network of 250,000 solvers.

What information and language should the problem statement include?

To engage the largest number of solvers from the widest variety of fields, a problem statement must meet the twin goals of being extremely specific but not unnecessarily technical. It shouldn’t contain industry or discipline jargon or presuppose knowledge of a particular field. It may (and probably should) include a summary of previous solution attempts and detailed requirements.

With those criteria in mind, Naugle and his team crafted a problem statement. (The following is the abstract; for the full problem statement, visit .) “EnterpriseWorks is seeking design ideas for a low-cost rainwater storage system that can be installed in households in developing countries. The solution is expected to facilitate access to clean water at a household level, addressing a problem that affects millions of people worldwide who are living in impoverished communities or rural areas where access to clean water is limited. Domestic rainwater harvesting is a proven technology that can be a valuable option for accessing and storing water year round. However, the high cost of available rainwater storage systems makes them well beyond the reach of low-income families to install in their homes. A solution to this problem would not only provide convenient and affordable access to scarce water resources but would also allow families, particularly the women and children who are usually tasked with water collection, to spend less time walking distances to collect water and more time on activities that can bring in income and improve the quality of life.”

To engage the largest number of solvers from the widest variety of fields, a problem statement must meet the twin goals of being extremely specific but not unnecessarily technical.

What do solvers need to submit?

What information about the proposed solution does your organization need in order to invest in it? For example, would a well-founded hypothetical approach be sufficient, or is a full-blown prototype needed? EWV decided that a solver had to submit a written explanation of the solution and detailed drawings.

What incentives do solvers need?

The point of asking this question is to ensure that the right people are motivated to address the problem. For internal solvers, incentives can be written into job descriptions or offered as promotions and bonuses. For external solvers, the incentive might be a cash award. EWV offered to pay $15,000 to the solver who provided the best solution through the InnoCentive network.

How will solutions be evaluated and success measured?

Addressing this question forces a company to be explicit about how it will evaluate the solutions it receives. Clarity and transparency are crucial to arriving at viable solutions and to ensuring that the evaluation process is fair and rigorous. In some cases a “we’ll know it when we see it” approach is reasonable—for example, when a company is looking for a new branding strategy. Most of the time, however, it is a sign that earlier steps in the process have not been approached with sufficient rigor.

EWV stipulated that it would evaluate solutions on their ability to meet the criteria of low cost, high storage capacity, low weight, and easy maintenance. It added that it would prefer designs that were modular (so that the unit would be easier to transport) and adaptable or salvageable or had multiple functions (so that owners could reuse the materials after the product’s lifetime or sell them to others for various applications). The overarching goal was to keep costs low and to help poor families justify the purchase.

Ultimately, the solution to EWV’s rainwater-storage problem came from someone outside the field: a German inventor whose company specialized in the design of tourist submarines. The solution he proposed required no elaborate machinery; in fact, it had no pumps or moving parts. It was an established industrial technology that had not been applied to water storage: a plastic bag within a plastic bag with a tube at the top. The outer bag (made of less-expensive, woven polypropylene) provided the structure’s strength, while the inner bag (made of more-expensive, linear low-density polyethylene) was impermeable and could hold 125 gallons of water. The two-bag approach allowed the inner bag to be thinner, reducing the price of the product, while the outer bag was strong enough to contain a ton and a half of water.

The structure folded into a packet the size of a briefcase and weighed about eight pounds. In short, the solution was affordable, commercially viable, could be easily transported to remote areas, and could be sold and installed by local entrepreneurs. (Retailers make from $4 to $8 per unit, depending on the volume they purchase. Installers of the gutters, downspout, and base earn about $6.)

EWV developed an initial version and tested it in Uganda, where the organization asked end users such questions as What do you think of its weight? Does it meet your needs? Even mundane issues like color came into play: The woven outer bags were white, which women pointed out would immediately look dirty. EWV modified the design on the basis of this input: For example, it changed the color of the device to brown, expanded its size to 350 gallons (while keeping the target price of no more than $20 per 125 gallons of water storage), altered its shape to make it more stable, and replaced the original siphon with an outlet tap.

After 14 months of field testing, EWV rolled out the commercial product in Uganda in March 2011. By the end of May 2012, 50 to 60 shops, village sales agents, and cooperatives were selling the product; more than 80 entrepreneurs had been trained to install it; and 1,418 units had been deployed in eight districts in southwestern Uganda.

EWV deems this a success at this stage in the rollout. It hopes to make the units available in 10 countries—and have tens or hundreds of thousands of units installed—within five years. Ultimately, it believes, millions of units will be in use for a variety of applications, including household drinking water, irrigation, and construction. Interestingly, the main obstacle to getting people to buy the device has been skepticism that something that comes in such a small package (the size of a typical five-gallon jerrican) can hold the equivalent of 70 jerricans. Believing that the remedy is to show villagers the installed product, EWV is currently testing various promotion and marketing programs. As the EWV story illustrates, critically analyzing and clearly articulating a problem can yield highly innovative solutions. Organizations that apply these simple concepts and develop the skills and discipline to ask better questions and define their problems with more rigor can create strategic advantage, unlock truly groundbreaking innovation, and drive better business performance. Asking better questions delivers better results.

problem solution organization definition

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Organizational Patterns – Definition, Meaning And Types

March 6, 2020 By Hitesh Bhasin Filed Under: Organizational Management

Table of Contents

Organization Pattern Definition and solution

The organizational pattern is a process that assists in structuring and organizing your ideas, thoughts, speech as well as a presentation for optimal impact. The link between effective communication and logical organization must be secure for the one who is sending and the one who is at receiving end.

The organizational pattern helps to make sense of the information so that the stated purpose is fulfilled. It provides focus and direction, so that clear organization helps the receiver to understand and remember the information that is shared.

The organizational pattern helps in organizing the speech. It is a formal process that requires that the main points must be relevant to the topic and must have the necessary balance in terms of relative importance.

Selecting and developing the main points, applying the principles of clarity, supporting your specific purpose and indicating the response you want from the audience is all because of the organizational pattern. It helps to avoid chaos and confusion so that clarity prevails at all costs.

Types of organizational pattern


There are several organizational patterns a person can use to meet his needs and organize his ideas. The specific or combination of the designs is dependent on the topic and the objective of writing that particular topic.

There is no fixed rule in choosing a suitable organizational pattern, think carefully about all the patterns and which one will help in making the most sense so that the receiver of the message can understand them properly.  The various types of organizational pattern are as follows-

1. Chronologicals or time-sequence pattern

This type of organizational pattern is useful in arranging the information as per the progression of time and can be either backward or in forwarding motion. Organizing a speech in a chronological sequence can also be used if you are offering information about a new product or technology where you have to provide detailed information about the timeline and how it was created during various phases.

The chronological organizational pattern works beautifully in several other topics, for instance of historical nature where the presenter has to show the significance of events using different segments of time. Every section represents a specific period, and the sub-points or sub-headings in each section are about the events that occurred within that time frame.

This variation of organizational pattern divides the information into three distinct segments like before-during-after or past-present-future so that the purpose of providing the information becomes apparent. Dates are mostly included if you are speaking or writing about non-fiction narratives or passages whereas fiction passages are subtle and organized chronologically but without the mention of exact years.

2. Spatials or geographical

This type of organizational pattern is useful in arranging the information as per the physical space, and the existence of a particular thing is with another item in order of location or area. The spatial organizational pattern is best suited when the speaker or writer is interested in creating a mental picture whose various parts can be distinguished through a physical location.

For instance, when you want to share information about a specific topic involving geography, the speaker or writer generally takes the help of spatial patterns. This form of the organizational pattern is also known as descriptive writing and is most frequent when describing how a particular thing looks like.

This type of organizational pattern is used in both non-fiction and fiction narratives where the narrator describes the appearance of a character or a setting in detail.

3. Sequential

This type of organizational pattern is useful in arranging the information as per the step-by-step sequence that is used to describe a specific process. In the sequential organizational pattern, every section represents the primary step that everyone has to follow in the actual process to show the order in which the events have occurred.

This concept is popularly known as process writing and is generally used to provide directions or instructions and to explain the processes in society or nature explicitly. The sequential pattern is often mixed up with chronological organizational pattern because of several similarities, but the primary point of difference is that in latter case narratives occur at specific setting and timing whereas in the former case the sequences do not occur at a particular place or time instead of at anytime

4. Topical or logical

This type of organizational pattern is one of the most frequently used patterns and is useful in arranging the information when any other organizational pattern will not work.

The topical organizational pattern arranges the narrative as various sub-topics within a broad topic. Now, every type of information represents a significant section of that information.

5. Problem-solution

This type of organizational pattern is useful in dividing and arranging the information into two main sections; one will describe the problem and the other the solution. The problem-solving organizational pattern is generally best for persuasive writing, where the general purpose of sharing information is to convince the reader or listener to support a specific course of action.

This is designed to compel others to change their existing behavior, opinion or course of work by establishing the fact that a problem is in existence and next in providing a solution for that current problem.

There are two sections, in the problem section, you have to note down the various aspects of the issue along with the evidence and in the solution section, the potential solutions are identified. It also supports the effectiveness of the solution over others to give credence to its claims.

6. Compare-contrast

This type of organizational pattern is useful in arranging the information as per the similarity factor or difference in two or more things. The compare-contrast organizational pattern is an effective method in the case where one subject is compared and described with another. Suppose you are familiar with one topic, then it becomes easy to compare it with another one to gain meaningful insight by exploring the similarities or differences between the two of them.

An important detail in the compare-contrast organizational pattern is that you have to undertake both options of discussing similarities as well as variations to make the narrative compare-contrast organizational pattern.

It is quite easy as the speaker usually bounces back and forth between the two subjects to clarify his point.

7. Cause-effect

This type of organizational pattern is useful in showing the information in such a manner that different causes and effects of various conditions can be assumed from it. The cause-effect organizational pattern is best if you are writing a persuasive or an expository document in which you have to persuade to take some action plan to solve a problem.

This pattern demonstrates the relationship between variables with two significant variations. It can divide the outline to two relevant sections that will include cause and effect, or you can share the draft as per the different purposes and write the impact of each cause contained within the more significant causes section.

Narratives structured as cause-effect can easily explain the reason why something has taken place and the effect of that happening. Through this organizational pattern, the writer is describing what caused a result of the effects of a cause.

8. Advantages & disadvantage

This type of organizational pattern is useful in arranging the information by dividing it into two parts pros and cons or merely good and evil. The advantage-disadvantage organizational pattern should be used when the intention is to discuss both sides of the issue without taking a single stand.

There are several variations related to this pattern, and it is up to an individual which one he thinks will suit his needs best

9. Order of importance

This type of organizational pattern is useful in arranging the information as per the hierarchy of value. In the order of importance organizational pattern, the steps or ideas are prioritized, and the information is structured in a manner that depicts the most important to the least important or vice-versa from least important to the most important.

Remember either the options or structures are considered the order of importance organizational structure.

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About Hitesh Bhasin

Hi, I am an MBA and the CEO of Marketing91. I am a Digital Marketer and an Entrepreneur with 12 Years of experience in Business and Marketing. Business is my passion and i have established myself in multiple industries with a focus on sustainable growth.

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Composition Type: Problem-Solution Essays

In composition , using a problem-solution format is a method for analyzing and writing about a topic by identifying a problem and proposing one or more solutions. A problem-solution essay is a type of argument. "This sort of essay involves argumentation in that the writer seeks to convince the reader to take a particular course of action. In explaining the problem, it may also need to persuade the reader concerning specific causes" (Dave Kemper et al., "Fusion: Integrated Reading and Writing," 2016).

The Thesis Statement

In many types of report writing, the thesis statement is posed front and center, in one sentence. Author Derek Soles writes about how the thesis statement in a problem-solution paper differs from a straight "report of findings" type of text:

"[One]  expository  mode is the problem-solution essay, topics for which are typically framed in the form of questions. Why did fourth-graders from poor families score low on a nationwide math test, and how can educators improve math education for this group? Why is Iran a threat to our national security, and how can we reduce this threat? Why did it take the Democratic Party so long to select a candidate for the 2008 presidential election, and what can the party do to make the process more efficient in the future? These essays have two parts: a full explanation of the nature of the problem, followed by an analysis of solutions and their likelihood of success."
("The Essentials of Academic Writing," 2nd ed. Wadsworth, Cengage, 2010)

Readers need additional context before you get to your thesis, but that is not to say that the thesis has to be posed as a question in the introduction:  

"In a problem-solution essay, the thesis statement usually proposes the solution. Because readers must first understand the problem, the thesis statement usually comes after a description of the problem. The thesis statement does not have to give details about the solution. Instead, it summarizes the solution. It should also lead naturally to the body of the essay, preparing your reader for a discussion of how your solution would work."
(Dorothy Zemach and Lynn Stafford-Yilmaz, "Writers at Work: The Essay." Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Sample Introductions

It can be helpful to see completed examples before writing in order to examine what makes for an effective piece. See how these introductions give some context before posing the topic and lead naturally into the body paragraphs, where the evidence will be listed. You can imagine how the author has organized the rest of the piece.

"We buried my cousin last summer. He was 32 when he hanged himself from a closet coat rack in the throes of alcoholism, the fourth of my blood relatives to die prematurely from this deadly disease. If America issued drinking licenses, those four men—including my father, who died at 54 of liver failure—might be alive today."
(Mike Brake, "Needed: A License to Drink."  Newsweek , March 13, 1994)
"America is suffering from overwork. Too many of us are too busy, trying to squeeze more into each day while having less to show for it. Although our growing time crunch is often portrayed as a personal dilemma, it is, in fact, a major social problem that has reached crisis proportions over the past twenty years."
(Barbara Brandt, "Whole Life Economics: Revaluing Daily Life." New Society, 1995)
"The modern-day apartment dweller is faced with a most annoying problem: paper-thin walls and sound-amplifying ceilings. To live with this problem is to live with the invasion of privacy. There is nothing more distracting than to hear your neighbors' every function. Although the source of the noise cannot be eliminated, the problem can be solved."
(Maria B. Dunn, "One Man's Ceiling Is Another Man's Floor: The Problem of Noise")


In "Passages: A Writer's Guide, " how to organize a problem-solution paper is explained:  

"Though to some extent [your organization of the paper] depends on your topic, do make sure that you include the following information:
Introduction: Identify the problem in a nutshell. Explain why this is a problem, and mention who should be concerned about it.
Problem Paragraph(s): Explain the problem clearly and specifically. Demonstrate that this is not just a personal complaint, but a genuine problem that affects many people.
"Solution Paragraph(s): Offer a concrete solution to the problem, and explain why this is the best one available. You may want to point out why other possible solutions are inferior to yours. If your solution calls for a series of steps or actions to be followed, present these steps in a logical order.
"Conclusion: Reemphasize the importance of the problem and the value of your solution. Choose a problem that you have experienced and thought about—one that you have solved or are in the process of solving. Then, in the essay itself, you may use your own experience to illustrate the problem. However, don't focus all the attention on yourself and on your troubles. Instead, direct the essay at others who are experiencing a similar problem. In other words, don't write an I essay ('How I Cure the Blues'); write a you essay ('How You Can Cure the Blues')."
(Richard Nordquist, Passages: A Writer's Guide , 3rd ed. St. Martin's Press, 1995)

problem solution organization definition

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10.2 Using Common Organizing Patterns

Learning objectives.

A motivational poster of water running over rocks. The caption says

Twentyfour Students – Organization makes you flow – CC BY-SA 2.0.

Previously in this chapter we discussed how to make your main points flow logically. This section is going to provide you with a number of organization patterns to help you create a logically organized speech. The first organization pattern we’ll discuss is categorical/topical.


By far the most common pattern for organizing a speech is by categories or topics. The categories function as a way to help the speaker organize the message in a consistent fashion. The goal of a categorical/topical speech pattern is to create categories (or chunks) of information that go together to help support your original specific purpose. Let’s look at an example.

In this case, we have a speaker trying to persuade a group of high school juniors to apply to attend Generic University. To persuade this group, the speaker has divided the information into three basic categories: what it’s like to live in the dorms, what classes are like, and what life is like on campus. Almost anyone could take this basic speech and specifically tailor the speech to fit her or his own university or college. The main points in this example could be rearranged and the organizational pattern would still be effective because there is no inherent logic to the sequence of points. Let’s look at a second example.

In this speech, the speaker is talking about how to find others online and date them. Specifically, the speaker starts by explaining what Internet dating is; then the speaker talks about how to make Internet dating better for her or his audience members; and finally, the speaker ends by discussing some negative aspects of Internet dating. Again, notice that the information is chunked into three categories or topics and that the second and third could be reversed and still provide a logical structure for your speech


Another method for organizing main points is the comparison/contrast speech pattern . While this pattern clearly lends itself easily to two main points, you can also create a third point by giving basic information about what is being compared and what is being contrasted. Let’s look at two examples; the first one will be a two-point example and the second a three-point example.

If you were using the comparison/contrast pattern for persuasive purposes, in the preceding examples, you’d want to make sure that when you show how Drug X and Drug Y differ, you clearly state why Drug X is clearly the better choice for physicians to adopt. In essence, you’d want to make sure that when you compare the two drugs, you show that Drug X has all the benefits of Drug Y, but when you contrast the two drugs, you show how Drug X is superior to Drug Y in some way.

The spatial speech pattern organizes information according to how things fit together in physical space. This pattern is best used when your main points are oriented to different locations that can exist independently. The basic reason to choose this format is to show that the main points have clear locations. We’ll look at two examples here, one involving physical geography and one involving a different spatial order.

If you look at a basic map of the United States, you’ll notice that these groupings of states were created because of their geographic location to one another. In essence, the states create three spatial territories to explain.

Now let’s look at a spatial speech unrelated to geography.

In this example, we still have three basic spatial areas. If you look at a model of the urinary system, the first step is the kidney, which then takes waste through the ureters to the bladder, which then relies on the sphincter muscle to excrete waste through the urethra. All we’ve done in this example is create a spatial speech order for discussing how waste is removed from the human body through the urinary system. It is spatial because the organization pattern is determined by the physical location of each body part in relation to the others discussed.


The chronological speech pattern places the main idea in the time order in which items appear—whether backward or forward. Here’s a simple example.

In this example, we’re looking at the writings of Winston Churchill in relation to World War II (before, during, and after). By placing his writings into these three categories, we develop a system for understanding this material based on Churchill’s own life. Note that you could also use reverse chronological order and start with Churchill’s writings after World War II, progressing backward to his earliest writings.


As you might guess, the biographical speech pattern is generally used when a speaker wants to describe a person’s life—either a speaker’s own life, the life of someone they know personally, or the life of a famous person. By the nature of this speech organizational pattern, these speeches tend to be informative or entertaining; they are usually not persuasive. Let’s look at an example.

In this example, we see how Brian Warner, through three major periods of his life, ultimately became the musician known as Marilyn Manson.

In this example, these three stages are presented in chronological order, but the biographical pattern does not have to be chronological. For example, it could compare and contrast different periods of the subject’s life, or it could focus topically on the subject’s different accomplishments.

The causal speech pattern is used to explain cause-and-effect relationships. When you use a causal speech pattern, your speech will have two basic main points: cause and effect. In the first main point, typically you will talk about the causes of a phenomenon, and in the second main point you will then show how the causes lead to either a specific effect or a small set of effects. Let’s look at an example.

In this case, the first main point is about the history and prevalence of drinking alcohol among Native Americans (the cause). The second point then examines the effects of Native American alcohol consumption and how it differs from other population groups.

However, a causal organizational pattern can also begin with an effect and then explore one or more causes. In the following example, the effect is the number of arrests for domestic violence.

In this example, the possible causes for the difference might include stricter law enforcement, greater likelihood of neighbors reporting an incident, and police training that emphasizes arrests as opposed to other outcomes. Examining these possible causes may suggest that despite the arrest statistic, the actual number of domestic violence incidents in your city may not be greater than in other cities of similar size.


Another format for organizing distinct main points in a clear manner is the problem-cause-solution speech pattern . In this format you describe a problem, identify what you believe is causing the problem, and then recommend a solution to correct the problem.

In this speech, the speaker wants to persuade people to pass a new curfew for people under eighteen. To help persuade the civic group members, the speaker first shows that vandalism and violence are problems in the community. Once the speaker has shown the problem, the speaker then explains to the audience that the cause of this problem is youth outside after 10:00 p.m. Lastly, the speaker provides the mandatory 10:00 p.m. curfew as a solution to the vandalism and violence problem within the community. The problem-cause-solution format for speeches generally lends itself to persuasive topics because the speaker is asking an audience to believe in and adopt a specific solution.


A further way to organize your main ideas within a speech is through a psychological speech pattern in which “a” leads to “b” and “b” leads to “c.” This speech format is designed to follow a logical argument, so this format lends itself to persuasive speeches very easily. Let’s look at an example.

In this speech, the speaker starts by discussing how humor affects the body. If a patient is exposed to humor (a), then the patient’s body actually physiologically responds in ways that help healing (b—e.g., reduces stress, decreases blood pressure, bolsters one’s immune system, etc.). Because of these benefits, nurses should engage in humor use that helps with healing (c).

Selecting an Organizational Pattern

Each of the preceding organizational patterns is potentially useful for organizing the main points of your speech. However, not all organizational patterns work for all speeches. For example, as we mentioned earlier, the biographical pattern is useful when you are telling the story of someone’s life. Some other patterns, particularly comparison/contrast, problem-cause-solution, and psychological, are well suited for persuasive speaking. Your challenge is to choose the best pattern for the particular speech you are giving.

You will want to be aware that it is also possible to combine two or more organizational patterns to meet the goals of a specific speech. For example, you might wish to discuss a problem and then compare/contrast several different possible solutions for the audience. Such a speech would thus be combining elements of the comparison/contrast and problem-cause-solution patterns. When considering which organizational pattern to use, you need to keep in mind your specific purpose as well as your audience and the actual speech material itself to decide which pattern you think will work best.

Key Takeaway

Stand up, Speak out by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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What Are the Five Organizational Patterns for Public Speaking?

by Michael Brent

Published on 21 Nov 2018

Some people may find giving a presentation to a group of people nerve-wracking, while others enjoy the opportunity to communicate their messages to others. For both professional and novice public speakers, however, there are five organizational patterns that can be used when developing a speech or presentation you'll deliver to a group of people, to give the speech structure and flow.

Logical or Topical Pattern

If you are giving a speech or presentation that contains several ideas that are interrelated in such a way that one flows naturally to the next, the logical pattern of organization can be used. As the name implies, you'll be organizing the information in a logical manner according to topic. This organizational pattern can also be used in a speech that discusses several sub-topics under the banner of a primary topic – just attack them all in a logical sequence.

Chronological or Time-Sequence Pattern

When information in a speech follows a chronological sequence, then the information should likewise be organized chronologically. For example, a speech on the development of a new technology should begin with its origin, then continue along the same time-line as events occurred. This organizational pattern is typically used in any speech addressing a subject from an historical perspective.

Spatial or Geographical Pattern

If you wish to evoke an image of something that has various parts, and those parts are distinguished by geography, then organize your speech using a spatial pattern. Spatial patterns are suited for speeches about a country or city, or even a building or organization, provided that the organization occupies a specific geographical location, such as a hospital or university.

Causal or Cause-and-Effect Pattern

Another way of organizing a speech on a particular topic is to look at the subject in terms of cause and effect. For example, a speech about providing foreign aid to victims of a natural disaster in another country would discuss the disaster itself (the cause) and the impact the disaster had on the nation's people (the effect). In this particular example, a further effect would be found in discussing the details of how foreign aid can help the victims.

Problem-Solution Pattern

The problem-solution organizational pattern is similar to the cause-and-effect pattern, but is typically used when the speaker is trying to persuade the audience to take a particular viewpoint. In essence, the speaker introduces a problem, and then outlines how this problem can be solved. For example, a speech on leaving a smaller carbon footprint could begin by detailing the problems associated with climate change. These points could then be followed by information on how these problems have been or are being addressed, with a summation indicating a plan of action the audience can take.

Whichever organizational structure you use, it should be clear to the audience how all the topics you are covering are related. Slides and images are a great way of showing how the various speech elements fit together, and you should be sure to practice your speech so you're confident that all of the elements follow a logical pattern.

Needs and Solutions, Requirements and Designs

January 01, 2013 Julian Sammy, EBA -->

1.0 Needs and Solutions, Requirements and Designs Six core concepts form the foundation of Business Analysis: change, need, solution, context, stakeholder, and value. The Business Analyst Core Concept Model™ (BACCM)™ describes these relationships among these core concepts as a dynamic conceptual system. All the concepts are equally necessary; there is no 'prime' concept, and they are all defined by the other Core Concepts. Because of this, no one Core Concept can be fully understood until all six are understood. This article focuses on the nature of needs and solutions and how business analysts represent them both with requirements and designs. (The interconnectedness of the BACCM means that some discussion of value, stakeholders, context, and change is inevitable.) .1 A usable representation of... The BACCM separates the core concepts from the way they are represented, because core concepts don't have to be represented to exist. Vitamin C solves a metabolic need in humans, but until just a few hundred years ago no one knew it existed. Humans had a need for something, a solution to that need, and no representation of either. When A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge® (BABOK® Guide) version 2, was written, this distinction was not clear. The community didn't have a way to differentiate some tightly related concepts, like need and requirement. The BABOK® Guide v2 definition of a requirement implies that a need that is never expressed—or even imagined—is a requirement (part 3 of the definition). But how can an unknown need be managed or analyzed? To a lesser degree, this same confusion exists between 'solution' and 'design'. By separating the core concepts from their representations, the BACCM simplifies and clarifies both. .2 Key Concepts, Key Terms, and Core Concepts The introduction to the BABOK® Guide v2 lists several 'key concepts', including both 'solution' and 'requirement'. In the BACCM, these ideas have a different nature, and are categorized differently. Solutions are grouped with the other five core concepts: value, need, change, stakeholder, and context. Requirements are grouped with dozens of 'key terms', such as design, plan, risk, domain, scope, organization, and many more. Key terms are not subsets of core concepts, or contained within a single core concept. They are aligned to each core concept to varying degrees. A few key concepts are noted here to illustrate this alignment.

3 What are Needs? What are Requirements? In BABOK® Guide v2 'need' is used over 400 times, and requirement appears about 1800 times. Taken together, these words appear about ten times per page. And yet, despite widespread agreement that requirements describe needs, 'need' is never defined. The book assumes 'need' is already understood (much as almost every business book assumes 'value' is understood and agreed on). Requirements1 are defined, however:

A condition or capability needed by a stakeholder to solve a problem or achieve an objective. A condition or capability that must be met or possessed by a solution or solution component to satisfy a contract, standard, specification, or other formally imposed documents. A documented representation of a condition or capability as in (1) or (2).

The BABOK® Guide goes on to say,

The term “requirement” is one that generates a lot of discussion within the business analysis community. Many of these debates focus on what should or should not be considered a requirement, and what are the necessary characteristics of a requirement. When reading the BABOK® Guide, however, it is vital that “requirement” be understood in the broadest possible sense. Requirements include but are not limited to, past, present, and future conditions or capabilities in an enterprise, and descriptions of organizational structures, roles, processes, policies, rules, and information systems. A requirement may describe the current or the future state of any aspect of the enterprise.

This definition can be simplified and generalized several ways.

Taken together, this means that one aspect of a requirement is

'A representation of something that could deliver value to a stakeholder by solving a problem or by taking advantage of an opportunity.'

The second part of the definition can be simplified and generalized as well.

4. The words 'that must be met by' are key: a requirement can represent constraints that a solution must conform to.

Since we have declared that requirements are a representation of a need, we can define a need as:

'something that could deliver value to a stakeholder by solving a problem, taking advantage of an opportunity, or conforming to a constraint.'

In the BACCM, we simplify further. A need is:

'a problem, opportunity, or constraint, with potential value to a stakeholder.'

Describing a requirement as 'a representation of a need' is a great start, but not sufficient. If you represent a business need for an application interface improvement through interpretive dance it's unlikely that anyone will be able to use that representation to do anything. Since organizations exist to do things, requirements must be useful at some level. The result is the BACCM definition of a requirement:

'a usable representation of a need.'

.4 What are Solutions? What are Designs?

In BABOK® Guide v2, designs are not defined, but solution is defined in two places:

Needs and solutions are real—but they are subjectively real, not objectively real; they require a point of view.

Needs and solutions are subjective because value is a judgment of the relative importance of something to someone. As judgements or relationships that stakeholders have to things, needs and solutions can't exist independent of things (and anything can be a thing). When value is being realized through a thing, the stakeholder calls the thing 'a solution'. When value could be increased or realized through a thing, the stakeholder calls the thing 'a need'.

This means that one stakeholder may consider a thing to be a need—while another stakeholder considers the same thing to be a solution. For example, classify each of these power sources as a need or a solution:

problem solution organization definition

Module 4: Organizing and Outlining

Organizational styles.

After deciding which main points and sub-points you must include, you can get to work writing up the speech. Before you do so, however, it is helpful to consider how you will organize the ideas. From presenting historical information in chronological order as part of an informative speech to drawing a comparison between two ideas in a persuasive speech to offering up problems and solutions, there are many ways in which speakers can craft effective speeches. These are referred to as organizational styles, or templates for organizing the main points of a speech.


Vintage clock

“Vintage alarm clock” by peter-rabbit. CC-BY-NC .

When you speak about events that are linked together by time, it is sensible to engage the chronological organization style. In a chronological speech , main points are delivered according to when they happened and could be traced on a calendar or clock. Arranging main points in chronological order can be helpful when describing historical events to an audience as well as when the order of events is necessary to understand what you wish to convey. Informative speeches about a series of events most commonly engage the chronological style, as do many demonstrative speeches (e.g., how to bake a cake or build an airplane). Another time when the chronological style makes sense is when you tell the story of someone’s life or career. For instance, a speech about Oprah Winfrey might be arranged chronologically (see textbox). In this case, the main points are arranged by following Winfrey’s life from birth to the present time. Life events (e.g., birth, her early career, her life after ending the Oprah Winfrey Show) are connected together according to when they happened and highlight the progression of Winfrey’s career. Organizing the speech in this way illustrates the interconnectedness of life events.

Oprah Winfrey (Chronological Arrangement)

Thesis : Oprah’s career can be understood by four key, interconnected life stages.

I. Oprah’s childhood was spent in rural Mississippi, where she endured sexual abuse from family members.

II. Oprah’s early career was characterized by stints on local radio and television networks in Nashville and Chicago.

III. Oprah’s tenure as host of the Oprah Winfrey Show began in 1986 and lasted until 2011, a period of time marked by much success.

IV. Oprah’s most recent media venture is OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, which plays host to a variety of television shows including Oprah’s Next Chapter .

Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment. – Oprah Winfrey

When the main points of your speech center on ideas that are more distinct from one another, a topical organization style may be engaged. In a topical speech , main points are developed separately and are generally connected together within the introduction and conclusion. In other words, the topical style is crafted around main points and sub-points that are mutually exclusive but related to one another by virtue of the thesis. It makes sense to use the topical style when elements are connected to one another because of their relationship to the whole. A topical speech about the composition of a newspaper company can be seen in the following textbox. The main points are linked together by the fact that they are all a part of the same business. Although they are related in that way, the topical style illustrates the ways in which the four different departments function apart from one another. In this example, the topical style is a good fit because the four departments are equally important to the function of the newspaper company.

Composition of a Newspaper Company (Topical Arrangement)

Thesis : The newspaper has four primary departments.

I. The advertising department sells display advertisements to local and national businesses.

II. The editorial department produces the written content of the newspaper, including feature stories.

III. The production department lays out the pages and manages pre- press work such as distilling the pages and processing colors.

IV. The business department processes payments from advertisers, employee paperwork, and the bi-weekly payroll.

Another way to organize the points of a speech is through a spatial speech , which arranges main points according to their physical and geographic relationships. The spatial style is an especially useful organization style when the main point’s importance is derived from its location or directional focus. In other words, when the scene or the composition is a central aspect of the main points, the spatial style is an appropriate way to deliver key ideas. Things can be described from top to bottom, inside to outside, left to right, north to south, and so on. Importantly, speakers using a spatial style should offer commentary about the placement of the main points as they move through the speech, alerting audience members to the location changes. For instance, a speech about The University of Georgia might be arranged spatially; in this example, the spatial organization frames the discussion in terms of the campus layout. The spatial style is fitting since the differences in architecture and uses of space are related to particular geographic areas, making location a central organizing factor. As such, the spatial style highlights these location differences.

University of Georgia (Spatial Arrangement)

Thesis : The University of Georgia is arranged into four distinct sections, which are characterized by architectural and disciplinary differences.

I. In North Campus, one will find the University’s oldest building, a sprawling tree- lined quad, and the famous Arches, all of which are nestled against Athens’ downtown district.

II. In West Campus, dozens of dormitories provide housing for the University’s large undergraduate population and students can regularly be found lounging outside or at one of the dining halls.

III. In East Campus, students delight in newly constructed, modern buildings and enjoy the benefits of the University’s health center, recreational facilities, and science research buildings.

IV. In South Campus, pharmacy, veterinary, and biomedical science students traverse newly constructed parts of campus featuring well-kept landscaping and modern architecture.


Oranges and apples

“Let’s compare apples to oranges” by frankieleon. CC-BY .

When you need to discuss the similarities and differences between two or more things, a comparative organizational pattern can be employed. In comparative speeches , speakers may choose to compare things a couple different ways. First, you could compare two or more things as whole (e.g., discuss all traits of an apple and then all traits of an orange). Second, you could compare these things element by element (e.g., color of each, smell of each, AND taste of each). Some topics that are routinely spoken about comparatively include different cultures, different types of transportation, and even different types of coffee. A comparative speech outline about eastern and western cultures could look like this.

Eastern vs. Western Culture (Comparison Arrangement)

Thesis : There are a variety of differences between Eastern and Western cultures.

I. Eastern cultures tend to be more collectivistic.

II. Western cultures tend to be more individualistic.

III. Eastern cultures tend to treat health issues 

IV. Western cultures tend to 
treat health issues more acutely.

In this type of speech, the list of comparisons, which should be substantiated with further evidence, could go on for any number of main points. The speech could also compare how two or more things are more alike than one might think. For instance, a speaker could discuss how singers Madonna and Lady Gaga share many similarities both in aesthetic style and in their music.


Flooded cars and houses

“ FEMA” by Dave Gatley. Public domain.

Sometimes it is necessary to share a problem and a solution with an audience. In cases like these, the problem-solution speech is an appropriate way to arrange the main points of a speech. One familiar example of speeches organized in this way is the political speeches that presidential hopefuls give in the United States. Often, candidates will begin their speech by describing a problem created by or, at the very least, left unresolved by the incumbent. Once they have established their view of the problem, they then go on to flesh out their proposed solution. The problem- solution style is especially useful when the speaker wants to convince the audience that they should take action in solving some problem. A political candidate seeking office might frame a speech using the problem-solution style (see textbox).

Presidential Candidate’s Speech (Problem-Solution Arrangement)

Thesis : The US energy crisis can be solved by electing me as president since I will devote resources to the production of renewable forms of energy.

I. The United States is facing an energy crisis because we cannot produce enough energy ourselves to sustain the levels of activity needed to run the country. (problem)

II. The current administration has failed to invest enough resources in renewable energy practices. (problem)

III. We can help create a more stable situation if we work to produce renewable forms of energy within the United States. (solution)

IV. If you vote for me, I will ensure that renewable energy creation is a priority. (solution)

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems. – Mahatma Gandhi

This example illustrates the way in which a problem-solution oriented speech can be used to identify both a general problem (energy crisis) and a specific problem (incumbent’s lack of action). Moreover, this example highlights two kinds of solutions: a general solution and a solution that is dependent on the speaker’s involvement. The problem-solution speech is especially appropriate when the speaker desires to promote a particular solution as this offers audience members a way to become involved. Whether you are able to offer a specific solution or not, key to the problem-solution speech is a clear description of both the problem and the solution with clear links drawn between the two. In other words, the speech should make specific connections between the problem and how the solution can be engaged to solve it.


“Domino” by Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ. CC-BY .

Similar to a problem-solution speech, a causal speech informs audience members about causes and effects that have already happened. In other words, a causal organization style first addresses some cause and then shares what effects resulted. A causal speech can be particularly effective when the speaker wants to share the relationship between two things, like the creation of a vaccine to help deter disease. An example of how a causal speech about a shingles vaccine might be designed follows:

As the example illustrates, the basic components of the causal speech are the cause and the effect. Such an organizational style is useful when a speaker needs to share the results of a new program, discuss how one act led to another, or discuss the positive/negative outcomes of taking some action.

Shingles Speech (Cause-Effect Arrangement)

Thesis : The prevalence of the disease shingles led to the invention of a vaccine.

Every choice you make has an end result. – Zig Ziglar

Choosing an organizational style is an important step in the speechwriting process. As you formulate the purpose of your speech and generate the main points that you will need to include, selecting an appropriate organizational style will likely become easier. The topical, spatial, causal, comparative and chronological methods of arrangement may be better suited to informative speeches, whereas the refutation pattern may work well for a persuasive speech. Additionally, Chapter 16 offers additional organization styles suited for persuasive speeches, such as the refutation speech and Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. [1] Next, we will look at statements that help tie all of your points together and the formal mode of organizing a speech by using outlines.

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Portions of the material in this section are based on original work by Geoffrey Graybeal and produced with support from the Rebus Community. The original is freely available under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license at

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

As you’ve learned, entrepreneurs often visualize an opportunity gap, a gap between what exists and what could exist, as Hirabayashi and Lidey did with Shine. Entrepreneurial problem solving is the process of using innovation and creative solutions to close that gap by resolving societal, business, or technological problems. Sometimes, personal problems can lead to entrepreneurial opportunities if validated in the market. The entrepreneur visualizes the prospect of filling the gap with an innovative solution that might entail the revision of a product or the creation of an entirely new product. In any case, the entrepreneur approaches the problem-solving process in various ways. This chapter is more about problem solving as it pertains to the entrepreneur’s thought process and approach rather than on problem solving in the sense of opportunity recognition and filling those gaps with new products.

For example, as we read in Identifying Entrepreneurial Opportunity , Sara Blakely (as shown in Figure 6.2 ) saw a need for body contouring and smoothing undergarments one day in the late 1990s when she was getting dressed for a party and couldn’t find what she needed to give her a silhouette she’d be pleased with in a pair of slacks. She saw a problem: a market need. But her problem-solving efforts are what drove her to turn her solution (Spanx undergarments) into a viable product. Those efforts came from her self-admitted can-do attitude: “It’s really important to be resourceful and scrappy—a glass half-full mindset.” 1 Her efforts at creating a new undergarment met resistance with hosiery executives, most of whom were male and out of touch with their female consumers. The hosiery owner who decided to help Blakely initially passed on the idea until running it by his daughters and realizing she was on to something. That something became Spanx , and today, Blakely is a successful entrepreneur. 2

Photo of three people sitting on a stage, talking, with Sara Blakely on the right.

Before getting into the heart of this chapter, we need to make a distinction: Decision making is different from problem solving . A decision is needed to continue or smooth a process affecting the operation of a firm. It can be intuitive or might require research and a long period of consideration. Problem solving , however, is more direct. It entails the solution of some problem where a gap exists between a current state and a desired state. Entrepreneurs are problem solvers who offer solutions using creativity or innovative ventures that exploit opportunities. This chapter focuses on different approaches to problem solving and need recognition that help potential entrepreneurs come up with ideas and refine those ideas.

Two Problem Solving Models: Adaptive and Innovative

There are two prominent established problem-solving models: adaptive and innovative . A renowned British psychologist, Michael Kirton , developed the Kirton Adaption-Innovation (KAI) Inventory to measure an individual’s style of problem solving. 3 Problem-solving preferences are dependent on the personality characteristics of originality, conformity, and efficiency, according to Kirton. The KAI inventory identifies an individual’s problem-solving approach by measuring agreement with statements that align with characteristics, such as the ability to produce many novel ideas, to follow rules and get along in groups, and to systematically orient daily behavior. The results categorize an individual as an innovator or an adaptor. Innovators are highly original, do not like to conform, and value efficiency less than adaptors.

The first and more conservative approach an entrepreneur may use to solve problems is the adaptive model. The adaptive model seeks solutions for problems in ways that are tested and known to be effective. An adaptive model accepts the problem definition and is concerned with resolving problems rather than finding them. This approach seeks greater efficiency while aiming at continuity and stability. The second and more creative approach is the innovative model of entrepreneurial problem solving, which uses techniques that are unknown to the market and that bring advantage to an organization. An innovative problem-solving style challenges the problem definition, discovers problems and avenues for their solutions, and questions existing assumptions—in a nutshell, it does things differently. It uses outside-the-box thinking and searches for novel solutions. Novelty is a shared trait of creative entrepreneurship, and it’s why entrepreneurs gravitate toward this method of problem solving. According to Dr. Shaun M. Powell , a senior lecturer at the University of Wollongong, Australia: “Creative entrepreneurs are notable for a distinctive management style that is based on intuition, informality and rapid decision making, whereas the more conventional thinking styles are not in accord with the unique attributes of creative entrepreneurs.” 4 This way of problem solving doesn’t alter an existing product. It is the creation of something entirely new.

For example, healthcare facilities have long been known as a source of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a deadly infection that can have long-term effects on patients. Vital Vio , led by Colleen Costello , has developed white light technology that effectively disinfects healthcare facilities by targeting a molecule specific to bacteria. The light, safe to humans, can burn constantly to kill regenerative bacteria. An adaptive problem-solving model would seek to minimize harm of MRSA within a hospital—to respond to it—whereas the Vital Vio is an entirely new technique that seeks to eliminate it. Adaptive solutions to MRSA include established processes and protocols for prevention, such as having doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers clean their hands with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub before and after patient care, testing patients to see if they have MRSA on their skin, cleaning hospital rooms and medical equipment, and washing and drying clothes and bed linens in the warmest recommended temperatures. 5

Link to Learning

Visit Inc. Magazine for support and advice for up-and-coming startups to learn more. Examples of how “Dorm Room” entrepreneurs spot and pursue opportunities are shared along with tips and advice for making your startup a success.

Problem-Solving Skills

While identifying problems is a necessary part of the origin of the entrepreneurial process, managing problems is an entirely different aspect once a venture is off the ground and running. An entrepreneur does not have the luxury of avoiding problems and is often responsible for all problem solving in a startup or other form of business. There are certain skills that entrepreneurs possess that make them particularly good problem solvers. Let’s examine each skill (shown in Figure 6.3 ) .

Entrepreneurial problem-solving skills include critical thinking, communication, decisiveness, ability to analyze data, business and industry awareness, resourcefulness, evaluate details, and ability to act on solutions.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the complex analysis of a problem or issue with the goal of solving the problem or making a decision. The entrepreneur analyzes and peels away the layers of a problem to find the core of an issue facing a business. The entrepreneur focuses on the heart of the problem and responds reasonably and openly to suggestions for solving it. Critical thinking is not only important for developing entrepreneurial ideas: it is a sought-after asset in education and employment. Entrepreneur Rebecca Kantar dropped out of Harvard in 2015 to found the tech startup Imbellus , which aims to replace standardized college admissions tests like the SAT with interactive scenarios that test critical-thinking skills. Many standardized tests may include multiple choice questions asking for the answer to a straightforward knowledge question or math problem. Kantar seeks to create tests that are more concerned with the analytic ability and reasoning that goes into the process of solving the problem. Imbellus says it aims to test “how people think,” not just what they know. The platform, which has not yet launched, will use simulations for its user assessments. 6

Read more about problem solving and EnterpriseWorks/Vita’s story at Harvard Business Review .


Communication skills , the ability to communicate messages effectively to an intended recipient, are the skills entrepreneurs use to pool resources for the purposes of investigating solutions leading to innovative problem solving and competitive advantage. Good communication allows for the free association of ideas between entrepreneurs and businesses. It can illustrate a problem area or a shared vision, and seeks stakeholder buy-in from various constituencies. Networking and communication within an industry allow the entrepreneur to recognize the position of an enterprise in the market and work toward verbalizing solutions that move an organization beyond its current state. By “verbalizing,” we mean communication from and with the company/entity. Internal communications include company emails, newsletters, presentations, and reports that can set strategic goals and objectives, and report on what has been accomplished and what goals and objectives remain, so that employees within an organization are knowledgeable and can work on solving problems that remain within the organization. External communications could include press releases, blogs and websites, social media, public speeches, and presentations that explain the company’s solutions to problems. They could also be investor pitches complete with business plans and financial projections.

Ideation exercises, such as brainstorming sessions (discussed in Creativity, Innovation, and Invention , are good communication tools that entrepreneurs can use to generate solutions to problems. Another such tool is a hackathon —an event, usually hosted by a tech company or organization, which brings together programmers and workers with other degrees of specialization within the company, community, or organization to collaborate on a project over a short period of time. These can last from twenty-four hours to a few days over a weekend. A hackathon can be an internal company-wide initiative or an external event that brings community participants together. A business model canvas , which is covered in Business Model and Plan and other activities outlined in other chapters can be used internally or externally to identify problems and work toward creating a viable solution.

Networking is an important manifestation of useful communication. What better method is there of presenting one’s concept, gaining funding and buy-in, and marketing for the startup than through building a network of individuals willing to support your venture? A network may consist of potential employees, customers, board members, outside advisors, investors, or champions (people who just love your product) with no direct vested interest. Social networks consist of weak ties and strong ties. Sociologist Mark Granovetter studied such networks back in the 1970s, and his findings still apply today, even if we include social media networks in the definition too. Weak ties facilitate flow of information and community organization, he said, whereas strong ties represent strong connections among close friends, family members, and supportive coworkers. 7 Strong ties require more work to maintain than weak ties (as illustrated by the strong lines and weak dotted lines in Figure 6.4 ) and in a business context, they don’t lead to many new opportunities. Weak ties, in contrast, do open doors in that they act as bridges to other weak ties within functional areas or departments that you might not have had access to directly or through strong ties. 8

Graphic of different people, some connected via solid lines, and some connected via dotted lines.

In fact, many young entrepreneurs, including tech entrepreneur Oliver Isaacs , realize college is a great place to begin building teams. Isaacs is the founder of viral opinion network , which is widely credited as the place where Internet memes started and online slang got a foothold. 9 consists of a large network of pages and partnerships on Facebook and Instagram that reach 15 million users each month. Isaacs recommends using your alumni network to build a team and customer base for your own venture because you never know if you’re talking to a future employee or partner.

Sharing of ideas and resources is highly valued in the entrepreneurial process. Communication is a vital skill in problem solving because the ability to identify and articulate the problem (define the problem space) is necessary to adequately address a problem. A problem can be too vague or broad or narrow. Thus, communicating the problem is important, as is conveying the solution.


Decisiveness is as it sounds: the ability to make a quick, effective decision, not letting too much time go by in the process. Entrepreneurs must be productive, even in the face of risk. They often rely on intuition as well as on hard facts in making a choice. They ask what problem needs to be solved, think about solutions, and then consider the means necessary to implement an idea. And the decisions must be informed with research.

For example, as explained in Adam Grant’s book The Originals , the co-founders of Warby Parker, a venture-backed startup focused on the eyewear industry, started their company while they were graduate students. At the time they knew little about the industry, but after conducting some detailed research, they learned that the industry was dominated by one major player—Luxottica. They used this information and other data to refine their strategy and business model (focusing mainly on value, quality, and convenience via an online channel). By the time they decided to launch the business, they had thought through the key details, and they attained rapid early success. Today Warby Parker has over 100 retail stores in the US, is profitable, and is valued at almost $2 billion.

Decisiveness is the catapult to progress. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos preaches the importance of decisiveness throughout his organization. Bezos believes that decisiveness can even lead to innovation. Bezos advocates for making decisions after obtaining 70 percent of the information you need to do so: “Being wrong may be less costly than you think, whereas being slow is going to be expensive for sure,” Bezos wrote in a 2017 annual letter to stockholders. 10

Read this LinkedIn blog post on decisiveness to learn more.

Ability to Analyze Data

Data analysis is the process of analyzing data and modeling it into a structure that leads to innovative conclusions. Identifying Entrepreneurial Opportunity covered much of the sources of data that entrepreneurs might seek. But it is one thing to amass information and statistics. It is another to make sense of that data, to use it to fill a market need or forecast a trend to come. Successful founders know how to pose questions about and make meaning out of information. And if they can’t do that themselves, they know how to bring in experts who can.

In addition to public sources of broad data, a business can collect data on customers when they interact with the company on social media or when they visit the company website, especially if they complete a credit card transaction. They can collect their own specific data on their own customers, including location, name, activity, and how they got to the website. Analyzing these data will give the entrepreneur a better idea about the interested audience’s demographic.

In entrepreneurship, analyzing data can help with opportunity recognition, creation, and assessment by analyzing data in a variety of ways. Entrepreneurs can explore and leverage different data sources to identify and compare “attractive” opportunities, since such analyses can describe what has happened, why it happened, and how likely it is to happen again in the future. In business in general, analytics is used to help managers/entrepreneurs gain improved insight about their business operations/emerging ventures and make better, fact-based decisions.

Analytics can be descriptive, predictive, or prescriptive. Descriptive analytics involves understanding what has happened and what is happening; predictive analytics uses data from past performance to estimate future performance; and prescriptive analytics uses the results of descriptive and predictive analytics to make decisions. Data analysis can be applied to manage customer relations, inform financial and marketing activities, make pricing decisions, manage the supply chain, and plan for human resource needs, among other functions of a venture. In addition to statistical analysis, quantitative methods, and computer models to aid decision-making, companies are also increasingly using artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze data and make quick decisions.

Understanding of Business and Industry

Entrepreneurs need sound understanding of markets and industries. Often times, they are already working in a large organization when they see growth opportunities or inefficiencies in a market. The employee gains a deep understanding of the industry at hand. If the employee considers a possible solution for a problem, this solution might become the basis for a new business.

For example, consider a marketing agency that used traditional marketing for thirty years. This agency had an established clientele. An executive in the organization began studying social media analytics and social media. The executive approached the owner of the business to change processes and begin serving clients through social media, but the owner refused. Clients within the agency began to clamor for exposure on social media. The marketing executive investigated the possibility of building an agency in her locale servicing clients who wish to utilize social media. The marketing executive left the organization and started her own agency (providing, of course, that this is in compliance with any noncompete clauses in her contract). Her competitive advantage was familiarity with both traditional and social media venues. Later, the original agency started floundering because it did not offer social media advertising. Our intrepid executive purchased the agency to gain the clientele and serve those wishing to move away from traditional marketing.

A similar experience occurred for entrepreneur Katie Witkin . After working in traditional marketing roles, the University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, pictured in Figure 6.5 , left agency life behind four years out of college to cofound her own company, AGW Group . In 2009, Witkin had been interning at a music marketing agency that didn’t have a social media department. She knew, both from her time at college and from observing industry trends, that social media was changing the way companies connected with customers. For her own venture, she expanded the focus to all supporting brands to manage all things digital. Today, the cultural and marketing communications agency has fifteen employees and big-name clients ranging from HBO to Red Bull. 11

Photo of Katie Witkin.


Resourcefulness is the ability to discover clever solutions to obstacles. Sherrie Campbell , a psychologist, author, and frequent contributor to Entrepreneur magazine on business topics, put it this way:

“There is not a more useful or important trait to possess than resourcefulness in the pursuit of success. Resourcefulness is a mindset, and is especially relevant when the goals you have set are difficult to achieve or you cannot envision a clear path to get to where you desire to go. With a resourcefulness mindset you are driven to find a way. An attitude of resourcefulness inspires out-of-the-box thinking, the generation of new ideas, and the ability to visualize all the possible ways to achieve what you desire. Resourcefulness turns you into a scrappy, inventive and enterprising entrepreneur. It places you a cut above the rest.” 12

Entrepreneurs start thinking about a business venture or startup by talking to people and procuring experts to help create, fund, and begin a business. Entrepreneurs are risk takers, passionate about new endeavors. If they don’t have a college degree or a great deal of business experience, they understand there are many resources available to support them in the endeavor, such as the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the Small Business Administration (SBA) . There are many sources available to fund the business with little or no debt and options, as you will see in the chapter on Entrepreneurial Finance and Accounting . The entrepreneur follows a vision and researches opportunities to move toward a dream.

For example, in the late 1990s, Bill McBean and his business partner Billy Sterett had an opportunity to buy an underperforming auto dealership that would make their company the dominant one in the market. Neither wanting to take cash from other ventures nor wanting to borrow more money and tie themselves to more debt, the entrepreneurs were resourceful by finding another path forward to obtaining the money necessary for the acquisition they both coveted. They changed banks and renegotiated their banking payback requirements, lowering their interest payments, reducing fees, and lowering their monthly payments, ultimately freeing up a significant amount of cash that allowed them to buy the new company. 13

Types of Problem Solvers

Entrepreneurs have an insatiable appetite for problem solving. This drive motivates them to find a resolution when a gap in a product or service occurs. They recognize opportunities and take advantage of them. There are several types of entrepreneurial problem solvers, including self-regulators, theorists, and petitioners.

Self-Regulating Problem Solvers

Self-regulating problem solvers are autonomous and work on their own without external influence. They have the ability to see a problem, visualize a possible solution to the problem, and seek to devise a solution, as Figure 6.6 illustrates. The solution may be a risk, but a self-regulating problem solver will recognize, evaluate, and mitigate the risk. For example, an entrepreneur has programmed a computerized process for a client, but in testing it, finds the program continually falls into a loop, meaning it gets stuck in a cycle and doesn’t progress. Rather than wait for the client to find the problem, the entrepreneur searches the code for the error causing the loop, immediately edits it, and delivers the corrected program to the customer. There is immediate analysis, immediate correction, and immediate implementation. The self-regulating problem solvers’ biggest competitive advantage is the speed with which they recognize and provide solutions to problems.

Cartoon showing someone identifying a problem, thinking of possible solutions, and then speaking to someone sitting at a desk about implementing the solution.

Theorist Problem Solvers

Theorist problem solvers see a problem and begin to consider a path toward solving the problem using a theory. Theorist problem solvers are process oriented and systematic. While managers may start with a problem and focus on an outcome with little consideration of a means to an end, entrepreneurs may see a problem and begin to build a path with what is known, a theory, toward an outcome. That is, the entrepreneur proceeds through the steps to solve the problem and then builds on the successes, rejects the failures, and works toward the outcome by experimenting and building on known results. At this point, the problem solver may not know the outcome, but a solution will arise as experiments toward a solution occur. Figure 6.7 shows this process.

For example, if we consider Marie Curie as an entrepreneur, Curie worked toward the isolation of an element. As different approaches to isolating the element failed, Curie recorded the failures and attempted other possible solutions. Curie’s failed theories eventually revealed the outcome for the isolation of radium. Like Curie, theorists use considered analysis, considered corrective action, and a considered implementation process. When time is of the essence, entrepreneurs should understand continual experimentation slows the problem-solving process.

Cartoon showing a person identifying a problem, implementing a theory as represented by a checklist, and arriving at a solution by presenting a graph.

Petitioner Problem Solvers

Petitioner problem solvers ( Figure 6.8 ) see a problem and ask others for solution ideas. This entrepreneur likes to consult a person who has “been there and done that.” The petitioner might also prefer to solve the problem in a team environment. Petitioning the entrepreneurial team for input ensures that the entrepreneur is on a consensus-driven path. This type of problem solving takes the longest to complete because the entrepreneur must engage in a democratic process that allows all members on the team to have input. The process involves exploration of alternatives for the ultimate solution. In organizational decision-making, for example, comprehensiveness is a measure of the extent a firm attempts to be inclusive or exhaustive in its decision-making. Comprehensiveness can be gauged by the number of scheduled meetings, the process by which information is sought, the process by which input is obtained from external sources, the number of employees involved, the use of specialized consultants and the functional expertise of the people involved, the years of historical data review, and the assignment of primary responsibility, among other factors. Comprehensive decision-making would be an example of a petitioner problem-solving style, as it seeks input from a vast number of team members.

A charette —a meeting to resolve conflicts and identify solutions—is another example that employs a petitioner problem-solving approach. Often times, a developer of a new project might hold a community charette to aid in the design of a project, hoping to gain approval from elected officials. In the building example, this could consist of the developer and his team of architects, project designers, and people with expertise in the project working alongside community members, business executives, elected officials, or representatives like staff members or citizen-appointed boards like a planning board. Such an activity is representative of a petitioner problem-solving approach, as opposed to a developer representative designing the project with no input from anyone else.

Cartoon of a person identifying a problem, discussing the problem with others, and finding a mutually agreeable solution.

In summary, there is no right or wrong style of problem solving; each problem solver must rely on the instincts that best drive innovation. Further, they must remember that not all problem-solving methods work in every situation. They must be willing to adapt their own preference to the situation to maximize efficiency and ensure they find an effective solution. Attempting to force a problem-solving style may prevent an organization from finding the best solution. While general entrepreneurial problem-solving skills such as critical thinking, decisiveness, communication, and the ability to analyze data will likely be used on a regular basis in your life and entrepreneurial journey, other problem-solving skills and the approach you take will depend on the problem as it arises.

There are a number of resources online that can help analyze your problem-solving abilities. is one such resource. These are useful to learn your general problem-solving tendencies before being called upon to apply them in a real-world setting. One of the problem-solving techniques available from offers that problems can be addressed from six different perspectives. Called CATWOE , the approach is an acronym for Customers, Actors (people within the organization), Transformative, Worldwide, Owner, and Environment (organizational).

Learn more about the CATWOE technique for problem solving.

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Online Guide to Writing and Research

Thinking strategies and writing patterns, explore more of umgc.

Patterns for Presenting Information

Problem-Cause-Solution Pattern

According to conventional wisdom, you can summarize every story ever told in the following way: someone falls into a hole and must climb out. In other words, every story is about solving a problem. There are probably many exceptions to this observation; however, connecting the need to solve a real-life problem to your subject can draw your readers’ attention. The problem-cause-solution pattern can help you do this.

the word of REVISE on building blocks concept.

In a sense, this pattern is a variety of the specific-to-general pattern, as it often begins with specific details and moves to a somewhat generalized solution. However, rather than evoking a sense of mystery and suspense, the problem-cause-solution pattern focuses on concrete difficulties; and though a solution may appeal to abstract principles, the solution should have a practical application, enough to solve the real-life problem.

When to Use this Pattern

You may find the problem-cause-solution pattern useful in writing case studies, critiques, introductions, reports of scientific investigations, literary reviews, political and social discourse, white papers, proposals, many kinds of reports, and essay examinations.

How to Create this Pattern

The name of the problem-cause-solution pattern also describes the sequence in which to present your information.

Begin by describing the problem.

Proceed through diagnosing and analyzing the problem.

Then propose a solution.

The forms of analysis used to diagnose the problem may vary. You might, for example, use comparative analysis to evaluate for flaws in a process that may have led to the problem. You might use a combination of synthesis and cause and effect analysis to locate systemic conditions which caused the problem. However, in each instance—whether analyzing an entire process or analyzing a specific cause—the goal is to locate a cause or causes.

Example of this Pattern

There are two main kinds of ice that shape sea levels. The first is sea ice, which comes from ocean water that freezes solid. It makes up most of the ice at the North Pole. As it forms, it changes the saltiness of seawater and helps shape powerful ocean currents. 

Melting sea ice doesn’t change the overall amount of water in the ocean, just as melting ice cubes don’t change the water level in a glass of water. But sea ice tends to reflect sunlight, while the darker ocean tends to soak up its heat. That speeds up warming and drives more ice melt in a worrying feedback loop. The warmer temperatures also contribute to the thermal expansion of water, which in turn can raise sea levels. 

The second kind of ice is land ice, which builds up in sheets over thousands of years from compacted snow. In Antarctica, the ice sheet is 1.5 miles thick (2.4 km) on average, reaching up to 3 miles (5 km) in some areas. Greenland’s ice sheet averages a mile in thickness. When land ice starts to jut out over the ocean, it creates a floating ice shelf (Irfan, 2022, paras. 9-11).

Example Explained

Notice how the passage above begins with an implied problem: ice causing changes to sea levels. The passage proceeds to explain the causes of changing sea levels. These are the first two parts of our pattern. A few paragraphs later, the author shifts to discussing the beginnings of a solution.

Key Takeaways

Mailing Address: 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783 This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License . © 2022 UMGC. All links to external sites were verified at the time of publication. UMGC is not responsible for the validity or integrity of information located at external sites.

Table of Contents: Online Guide to Writing

Chapter 1: College Writing

How Does College Writing Differ from Workplace Writing?

What Is College Writing?

Why So Much Emphasis on Writing?

Chapter 2: The Writing Process

Doing Exploratory Research

Getting from Notes to Your Draft


Prewriting - Techniques to Get Started - Mining Your Intuition

Prewriting: Targeting Your Audience

Prewriting: Techniques to Get Started

Prewriting: Understanding Your Assignment

Rewriting: Being Your Own Critic

Rewriting: Creating a Revision Strategy

Rewriting: Getting Feedback

Rewriting: The Final Draft

Techniques to Get Started - Outlining

Techniques to Get Started - Using Systematic Techniques

Thesis Statement and Controlling Idea

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Freewriting

Writing: Getting from Notes to Your Draft - Summarizing Your Ideas

Writing: Outlining What You Will Write

Chapter 3: Thinking Strategies

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone

A Word About Style, Voice, and Tone: Style Through Vocabulary and Diction

Critical Strategies and Writing

Critical Strategies and Writing: Analysis

Critical Strategies and Writing: Evaluation

Critical Strategies and Writing: Persuasion

Critical Strategies and Writing: Synthesis

Developing a Paper Using Strategies

Kinds of Assignments You Will Write

Patterns for Presenting Information: Critiques

Patterns for Presenting Information: Discussing Raw Data

Patterns for Presenting Information: General-to-Specific Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Problem-Cause-Solution Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Specific-to-General Pattern

Patterns for Presenting Information: Summaries and Abstracts

Supporting with Research and Examples

Writing Essay Examinations

Writing Essay Examinations: Make Your Answer Relevant and Complete

Writing Essay Examinations: Organize Thinking Before Writing

Writing Essay Examinations: Read and Understand the Question

Chapter 4: The Research Process

Planning and Writing a Research Paper

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Ask a Research Question

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Cite Sources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Collect Evidence

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Decide Your Point of View, or Role, for Your Research

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Draw Conclusions

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Find a Topic and Get an Overview

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Manage Your Resources

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Outline

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Survey the Literature

Planning and Writing a Research Paper: Work Your Sources into Your Research Writing

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Human Resources

Research Resources: What Are Research Resources?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found?

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Electronic Resources

Research Resources: Where Are Research Resources Found? - Print Resources

Structuring the Research Paper: Formal Research Structure

Structuring the Research Paper: Informal Research Structure

The Nature of Research

The Research Assignment: How Should Research Sources Be Evaluated?

The Research Assignment: When Is Research Needed?

The Research Assignment: Why Perform Research?

Chapter 5: Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity

Giving Credit to Sources

Giving Credit to Sources: Copyright Laws

Giving Credit to Sources: Documentation

Giving Credit to Sources: Style Guides

Integrating Sources

Practicing Academic Integrity

Practicing Academic Integrity: Keeping Accurate Records

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Paraphrasing Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Quoting Your Source

Practicing Academic Integrity: Managing Source Material - Summarizing Your Sources

Types of Documentation

Types of Documentation: Bibliographies and Source Lists

Types of Documentation: Citing World Wide Web Sources

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - APA Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - CSE/CBE Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - Chicago Style

Types of Documentation: In-Text or Parenthetical Citations - MLA Style

Types of Documentation: Note Citations

Chapter 6: Using Library Resources

Finding Library Resources

Chapter 7: Assessing Your Writing

How Is Writing Graded?

How Is Writing Graded?: A General Assessment Tool

The Draft Stage

The Draft Stage: The First Draft

The Draft Stage: The Revision Process and the Final Draft

The Draft Stage: Using Feedback

The Research Stage

Using Assessment to Improve Your Writing

Chapter 8: Other Frequently Assigned Papers

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Article and Book Reviews

Reviews and Reaction Papers: Reaction Papers

Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Adapting the Argument Structure

Writing Arguments: Purposes of Argument

Writing Arguments: References to Consult for Writing Arguments

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Anticipate Active Opposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Determine Your Organization

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Develop Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Introduce Your Argument

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - State Your Thesis or Proposition

Writing Arguments: Steps to Writing an Argument - Write Your Conclusion

Writing Arguments: Types of Argument

Appendix A: Books to Help Improve Your Writing


General Style Manuals

Researching on the Internet

Special Style Manuals

Writing Handbooks

Appendix B: Collaborative Writing and Peer Reviewing

Collaborative Writing: Assignments to Accompany the Group Project

Collaborative Writing: Informal Progress Report

Collaborative Writing: Issues to Resolve

Collaborative Writing: Methodology

Collaborative Writing: Peer Evaluation

Collaborative Writing: Tasks of Collaborative Writing Group Members

Collaborative Writing: Writing Plan

General Introduction

Peer Reviewing

Appendix C: Developing an Improvement Plan

Working with Your Instructor’s Comments and Grades

Appendix D: Writing Plan and Project Schedule

Devising a Writing Project Plan and Schedule

Reviewing Your Plan with Others

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Patterns of Organization and Methods of Development

Patterns of organization can help your readers follow the ideas within your essay and your paragraphs, but they can also work as methods of development to help you recognize and further develop ideas and relationships in your writing. Here are some strategies that can help you with both organization and development in your essays.

Major Patterns of Organization

Read the following sentences:

How did it feel to read the above list? A bit confusing, I would guess. That’s because the steps for making a pie were not well organized, and the steps don’t include enough detail for us to know exactly what we should do. (Like what are the dry and liquid ingredients?) We all know that starting instructions from the beginning and giving each detailed step in the order it should happen is vital to having a good outcome, in this case a yummy pie! But it’s not always so simple to know how to organize or develop ideas, and sometimes there’s more than one way, which complicates things even further.

First, let’s take a look at a couple of ways to think about organization.

General to Specific or Specific to General

It might be useful to think about organizing your topic like a triangle:

a diagram that shows a triangle with the point at the bottom to represent "general to specific" organization and a triangle with a point at the top to represent "specific to general" organization

The first triangle represents starting with the most general, big picture information first, moving then to more detailed and often more personal information later in the paper. The second triangle represents an organizational structure that starts with the specific, small scale information first and then moves to the more global, big picture stuff.

For example, if your topic is air pollution in Portland, Oregon, an essay that uses the general-to-specific organizational structure might begin this way:

Many people consider Portland, Oregon, to be an environmentally friendly, pollution-free place to live. They would be shocked to know how many pollutants are in the air causing a multitude of health problems in Portland’s citizens.

An essay that uses the specific-to-general structure might start like this:

When Nancy moved to Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids, she expected to find a clean, pollution-free city. She was shocked and angered when her daughter was diagnosed with asthma caused by air pollution.

What’s the difference between these two introductions? And how might they appeal to the intended audience for this essay (Portland voters) in different ways? The first introduction is looking at the big picture of the problem and mentions pollution’s impact on all citizens in Portland, while the second introduction focuses on one specific family. The first helps readers see how vast the problem really is, and the second helps connect readers to a real family, making an emotional appeal from the very beginning. Neither introduction is necessarily better. You’ll choose one over the other based on the kind of tone you’d like to create and how you’d like to affect your audience. It’s completely up to you to make this decision.

Does the Triangle Mean the Essay Keeps Getting More Specific or More Broad until the Very End?

The triangle is kind of a general guide, meaning you’re allowed to move around within it all you want. For example, it’s possible that each of your paragraphs will be its own triangle, starting with the general or specific and moving out or in. However, if you begin very broadly, it might be effective to end your essay in a more specific, personal way. And if you begin with a personal story, consider ending your essay by touching on the global impact and importance of your topic.

Are There Other Ways to Think about Organizing My Ideas?

Yes! Rather than thinking about which of your ideas are most specific or personal or which are more broad or universal, you might consider one of the following ways of organizing your ideas:

The section on Methods of Development, below, offers more detail about some of these organizational patterns, along with some others.

Choose one of the following topics, and practice writing a few opening sentences like we did above, once using the general-to-specific format and once using the specific-to-general. Which do you like better? What audience would be attracted to which one? Share with peers to see how others tackled this challenge. How would you rewrite their sentences? Why? Discuss your changes and listen to how your peers have revised your sentences. Taking in other people’s ideas will help you see new ways to approach your own writing and thinking.

Methods of Development

The methods of development covered here are best used as ways to look at what’s already happening in your draft and to consider how you might emphasize or expand on any existing patterns. You might already be familiar with some of these patterns because teachers will sometimes assign them as the purpose for writing an essay. For example, you might have been asked to write a cause-and-effect essay or a comparison-and-contrast essay.

It’s important to emphasize here that patterns of organization or methods of developing content usually happen naturally as a consequence of the way the writer engages with and organizes information while writing. That is to say, most writers don’t sit down and say, “I think I’ll write a cause-and-effect essay today.”  Instead, a writer might be more likely to be interested in a topic, say, the state of drinking water in the local community, and as the writer begins to explore the topic, certain cause-and-effect relationships between environmental pollutants and the community water supply may begin to emerge.

So if these patterns just occur naturally in writing, what’s the use in knowing about them?  Well, sometimes you might be revising a draft and notice that some of your paragraphs are a bit underdeveloped. Maybe they lack a clear topic, or maybe they lack support. In either case, you can look to these common methods of development to find ways to sharpen those vague topics or to add support where needed. Do you have a clear cause statement somewhere but you haven’t explored the effects?  Are you lacking detail somewhere where a narrative story or historical chronology can help build reader interest and add support?  Are you struggling to define an idea that might benefit from some comparison or contrast?  Read on to consider some of the ways that these strategies can help you in revision. And if you want to learn more, check out what the New York Times has to say in their learning blog article, “ Compare-Contrast, Cause-Effect, Problem Solution: Common ‘Text Types’ in The Times .”

Cause and Effect (or Effect and Cause)

Do you see a potential cause-and-effect relationship developing in your draft?  The cause-and-effect pattern may be used to identify one or more causes followed by one or more effects or results. Or you may reverse this sequence and describe effects first and then the cause or causes. For example, the causes of water pollution might be followed by its effects on both humans and animals. You may use obvious transitions to clarify cause and effect, such as “What are the results? Here are some of them…” or you might simply use the words cause , effect , and result , to cue the reader about your about the relationships that you’re establishing.

Here’s an example article from the New York times, “ Rough Times Take Bloom Off a New Year’s Rite, the Rose Parade ,” that explores the cause and effect relationship (from 2011) between Pasadena’s budgetary challenges and the ability of their Rose Parade floats to deck themselves out in full bloom.


At some point does your essay explore a problem or suggest a solution? The problem-solution pattern is commonly used in identifying something that’s wrong and in contemplating what might be done to remedy the situation. There are probably more ways to organize a problem-solution approach, but but here are three possibilities:

When the solution is stated at the end of the paper, the pattern is sometimes called the delayed proposal. For a hostile audience, it may be effective to describe the problem, show why other solutions do not work, and finally suggest the favored solution. You can emphasize the words problem and solution to signal these sections of your paper for your reader.

Here’s an example article from the New York times, “ Monks Embrace Web to Reach Recruits ,” that highlights an unexpected approach by a group of Benedictine monks in Rhode Island; they’ve turned to social media to grow their dwindling membership. Monks on Facebook?  Who knew?

Chronology or Narrative

Do you need to develop support for a topic where telling a story can illustrate some important concept for your readers? Material arranged chronologically is explained as it occurs in time. A chronological or narrative method of development might help you find a way to add both interest and content to your essay. Material arranged chronologically is explained as it occurs in time. This pattern may be used to establish what has happened. Chronology or narrative can be a great way to introduce your essay by providing a background or history behind your topic. Or you may want to tell a story to develop one or more points in the body of your essay. You can use transitional words like then , next , and finally to make the parts of the chronology clear.

Here’s an example article from the Center for Media Literacy (originally published in the journal Media & Values ): “ From Savers to Spenders: How Children Became a Consumer Market .” To encourage his readers to think about why and how children are being marketed to by advertisers, the author uses a historical chronology of how the spending habits of children changed over a number of decades.

Comparison and Contrast

Are you trying to define something? Do you need your readers to understand what something is and what it is not? The comparison-and-contrast method of development is particularly useful in extending a definition, or anywhere you need to show how a subject is like or unlike another subject. For example, the statement is often made that drug abuse is a medical problem instead of a criminal justice issue. An author might attempt to prove this point by comparing drug addiction to AIDS, cancer, or heart disease to redefine the term “addiction” as a medical problem. A statement in opposition to this idea could just as easily establish contrast by explaining all the ways that addiction is different from what we traditionally understand as an illness. In seeking to establish comparison or contrast in your writing, some words or terms that might be useful are by contrast , in comparison , while , some , and others .

Here’s an example article from the New York times: “ Who Wants to Shop in a Big Box Store, Anyway? ” The author explores some interesting differences between the average American and average Indian consumer to contemplate the potential success of big box stores in India and also to contemplate why these giant big box corporations, like Walmart or Target, might have to rethink their business model.

These four methods of development—cause and effect, problem-solution, chronology or narrative, and comparison and contrast—are just a few ways to organize and develop ideas and content in your essays. It’s important to note that they should not be a starting point for writers who want to write something authentic—something that they care deeply about. Instead, they can be a great way to help you look for what’s already happening with your topic or in a draft, to help you to write more, or to help you reorganize some parts of an essay that seem to lack connection or feel disjointed. Look for organizational patterns when you’re reading work by professional writers. Notice where they combine strategies (e.g a problem-solution pattern that uses cause-and-effect organization, or a comparison-contrast pattern that uses narrative or chronology to develop similarities or differences). Pay attention to how different writers emphasize and develop their main ideas, and use what you find to inspire you in your own writing. Better yet, work on developing  completely new patterns of your own.

The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  3. What Is Problem Solving?

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  4. The Problem-Definition Process

    The Problem-Definition Process encourages you to define and understand the problem that you're trying to solve, in detail. It also helps you confirm that solving the problem contributes towards your organization's objectives.

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    Problem-Solution Patterns Topical Patterns The link between clear, logical organization and effective communication is powerful, both for the "sender" and the "receiver." For the writer, a well organized outline of information serves as a blue print for action.

  7. Organizational Patterns

    The problem-solving organizational pattern is generally best for persuasive writing, where the general purpose of sharing information is to convince the reader or listener to support a specific course of action.

  8. Problem-Solution Essays: Definition and Examples

    In composition, using a problem-solution format is a method for analyzing and writing about a topic by identifying a problem and proposing one or more solutions. A problem-solution essay is a type of argument. "This sort of essay involves argumentation in that the writer seeks to convince the reader to take a particular course of action.

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  10. 10.2 Using Common Organizing Patterns

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  11. What Are Problem-Solving Skills? Definitions and Examples

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  12. What Are the Five Organizational Patterns for Public Speaking?

    Problem-Solution Pattern. The problem-solution organizational pattern is similar to the cause-and-effect pattern, but is typically used when the speaker is trying to persuade the audience to take a particular viewpoint. In essence, the speaker introduces a problem, and then outlines how this problem can be solved.

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    Organizational issues can be a challenge for some companies to overcome as they try to improve and manage their daily operations. The first step to resolving organizational issues is to acknowledge that there is a problem and identify the source.

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    The problem- solution style is especially useful when the speaker wants to convince the audience that they should take action in solving some problem. A political candidate seeking office might frame a speech using the problem-solution style (see textbox). Presidential Candidate's Speech (Problem-Solution Arrangement)

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  18. Patterns for Presenting Information: Problem-Cause-Solution Pattern

    The problem-cause-solution approach will first describe the problem, then analyze the cause or responses to the problem, and then will lead to a solution. We practice this approach daily in our interactions with others, whether at work or home. Mailing Address: 3501 University Blvd. East, Adelphi, MD 20783

  19. Speech Organization Patterns & Importance

    A problem-solution organizational pattern arranges the main points into two categories: the problem and the solution (s). This type of speech states a perceived problem as the main idea....

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