A Step-by-Step Guide: Using Problem Formulation to Introduce New Technologies in Existing Processes

Let's follow the journey of a fictitious startup, ContentPro, and explore how their product manager and development team employed various problem formulation techniques to overcome content publishing hurdles.

The Context

ContentPro is a cutting-edge startup that specializes in content publishing solutions. With a team of talented content creators, editors, and marketers, they strive to deliver high-quality and engaging content to their target audience.

Currently, ContentPro's existing processes involve manual content creation, which includes researching topics, ideating content ideas, writing, editing, and distributing content across various platforms.

However, they face challenges such as content creation inefficiencies, scalability limitations, and the need for personalized content recommendations to enhance audience engagement.

To address these challenges, ContentPro aims to introduce new technologies through effective problem formulation techniques, enabling them to streamline their existing processes and unlock new levels of productivity and innovation.

What is Problem Formulation?

Problem formulation is the process of clearly defining and understanding a problem, including its context, objectives, constraints, and desired outcomes, in order to guide effective problem-solving and decision-making.

There are 3 types of Problem Formulation

  • Descriptive

  • Comparative

  • Associative

Why is Problem Formulation important?

Oguz A. Acar, in his HBR article, argues that "problem formulation is a widely overlooked and underdeveloped skill for most of us".

"First, future generations of AI systems will get more intuitive and adept at understanding natural language, reducing the need for meticulously engineered prompts. Second, new AI language models like GPT4 already show great promise in crafting prompts — AI itself is on the verge of rendering prompt engineering obsolete."

Acar writes that there are four key components for effective problem formulation:

  • Problem Diagnosis

  • Decomposition

  • Reframing

  • and Constraint Design

Now let's understand using ContentPro as an example to elaborate on the above components.

First, let's rephrase ContentPro's problem statement with 3 different types of Problem Formulation techniques.

ContentPro faces challenges related to content creation inefficiencies, scalability limitations, and the need for personalized content recommendations to enhance audience engagement.

ContentPro's content creation processes are less efficient and scalable compared to industry standards, resulting in decreased productivity and limited audience engagement.

ContentPro's content creation challenges are associated with a lack of automation, scalability limitations, and the absence of personalized content recommendations, impacting their productivity and audience engagement.

Problem Diagnosis

Uncovering the Root Causes The PM and the development team embarked on a comprehensive problem diagnosis process. They conducted interviews, data analysis, and user research to identify the underlying issues affecting ContentPro's content publishing operations. By diagnosing the root causes, they gained a clear understanding of the problem space.

The team discovered that content creation inefficiency, low audience engagement, and scalability limitations were the primary challenges hindering ContentPro's growth. This diagnosis laid the foundation for targeted problem formulation and solution-seeking.


Breaking Down Complexities To tackle the identified challenges effectively, the team utilized decomposition techniques. They broke down the overarching content publishing problem into smaller, manageable sub-problems, enabling a more systematic approach.

For instance, the team divided content creation inefficiency into sub-problems such as manual research, repetitive tasks, and time-consuming editing processes. By decomposing the problem, the PM and development team could address each aspect individually, ensuring a more focused problem-solving approach.


Exploring Alternative Perspectives Recognizing the importance of alternative viewpoints, the PM and the development team embraced reframing techniques. They sought to challenge assumptions and expand their problem-solving horizons.

By reframing the content publishing challenges, the team discovered new opportunities. They explored the possibility of leveraging artificial intelligence and generative algorithms to automate content ideation, personalize user experiences, and enhance audience engagement. This fresh perspective allowed for innovative use case identification and solution generation.

Constraint Design

Aligning Resources and Priorities Conscious of limited resources, the PM and development team employed constraint design techniques. They intentionally defined boundaries and constraints within which they could operate effectively.

By considering factors such as budget, time, and technological capabilities, the team prioritized use cases that were feasible and aligned with ContentPro's resources. They focused on integrating Generative AI into specific areas, such as content ideation, personalized recommendations, and multilingual translation, where they had the necessary expertise and infrastructure.


By diagnosing root causes, breaking down complexities, exploring alternative perspectives, and aligning resources, the team developed a robust strategy to integrate Generative AI solutions into ContentPro's operations.

Of course, implementing the above techniques is going to be context-driven and different for different use cases.

However, giving problem formulation a structure will be highly beneficial in finding use cases.


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