The way a transformational question changes the odds

of a big answer is that it shines the klieg light on something

we call the problem behind the problem—not the surface

level challenge the project was initially chartered to solve,

but a big hairy thing lurking behind it in the shadows.

More often than not, the surface problem

is just a symptom of the bigger one.

For instance, where a beverage company

once engaged us around the question of how to reignite the interest

of 21-year-old guys in a once-hot category on the wane, the problem

behind the problem was that the powerful underlying technology

platform had been leveraged only against a narrow and fickle

segment of society. Solving that background issue would open

bigger growth opportunities, and ensure a similar problem wouldn’t

resurface in a few years when 21-year-old tastes took their next

inevitable u-turn. Finding the problem behind the problem takes

some practice, but experience says it’s always there, and solving it

does two big things.

Since the foreground issue is

usually just a symptom, solving

the problem behind it makes

the first one go away.

And since the problem behind

the problem is usually far

bigger, its resolution opens

bigger opportunities.

A few examples

show how this plays out.

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