Some pencil and paper sketches of a woman posing.
Sketching series. Photo by Lavi Perchik on Unsplash

Shifting approaches: from an idea-driven to a problem-driven mindset.

Daniela Castro
4 min readJul 12, 2021

This was supposed to be more than a UX process text.

As I was reading the Lean UX book this week, something came to my mind:

If people were more driven towards extinguishing real and root problems than thinking about great solutions at first, how different our activities could be?

I know, sounds audacious. But let me try explain what is behind this.

I hope you can get some insights to tackle problems in your professional and, why not, personal life too.

The continuous push for final great ideas

Disclaimer: I have actually no data to support my assumption here, apart from my personal experience.

Image of an upside down flip flop serving as mobile phone case inside a car. The image illustrates what gambiarra stands for.
*Gambiarra sample for no portuguese speakers. Source.

As a born and raised Brazilian, I witnessed this huge getting things done behavior no matter how much gambiarra* one will need to do. And that was present in many of my life circles: family, friends, work, services.. you name it.

Gambiarra is a improvised way to solve things. It’s not intended to be a long-term solution, but it will be fast and cheap, making problems disappear for a while.

On the other hand, I also grew up surrounded by talent shows and contests rewarding the most excellent ideas, always encouraging the perfect, final shape of the deliverable.

And those experiences have built my mindset on what meant “achieving success”, for a long time.

I mean, younger Daniela would say:
“Look at my very first drawing for this nice contest… there’s no chance to compete with the last year’s winner".

And very often, I quit without even trying.

Creativity versus talent

What no one has told me back then (until I became Design undergraduate) is that creativity and great end results are the result of a process. It’s not always talent.

“I’m not a creative person, I would never be able to do this” —have you ever heard it?

In order to be creative, you need to try.
And try again. And fail. And try once more.

The practice, and the repetition, will make a mid-term effect in your mind, shifting from a pre-determined idea of a solution approach to an experimentation approach.

Creativity is about connecting dots in a different way.
If you never try, then you will never know (is that a song?).

What is the problem?

Let’s take a step back for a moment.
What’s the point about being creative?
Why bother?
Why good ideas and solution stick for long periods?

Because they solve real problems.

Frequently, our idea-driven minds forget to think about the problems we are intended to solve. With this brilliant solution in mind, we keep on thinking about ways to materialize it, the means needed to do so, the time we will spend to deliver the solutions.

Not thinking about the problems to be solved, drives us to a dead-end zone, unable to answer simple questions as:

  • For what?
  • For whom?
  • How successful will it be?
  • How can I measure it?
  • For how long will it serve?

Assumptions and hypothesis

The first dilemma of idea-driven minds is:

Your idea is no more than an assumption, until you can gather enough evidence to prove it works.

And damn it hurts to realize that. Things are so clear and obvious in our minds.. how come this may not be the truth?

I’m not saying assumptions are bad and must be avoided, not at all. But they will serve specifically as a kick-off for your creative process.

Assumption → Problem → Hypothesis → Idea/Solution

I invite you, idea-driven minds, to do a reverse-engineering on your ideas. Why? Because that idea is actually just one representation of the inumerous possible hypothesis to solve a problem.

Use all your assumptions to map the evidences you already have, and the ones still missing. Use them to understand the problem being tackled.

Declare the problem. Understand how high or low-level it is. Look for its roots. Thiswill be your north star, not the idea.

Then, start elaborating hypothesis statements.
If you are doing so for your work, you can use these 4 points* below to help you mapping them out. Each statement is intended to contemplate them:

  • Business outcomes you are trying to achieve
  • Users you are trying to service
  • Users outcomes that motivates them
  • Features you believe might work in this situation

*The 4 points were taken from Lean UX — Designing great products.

By doing so, you will broaden your perspective, understand the gaps to be filled, and you will be closer to connecting dots in a different way, which you know by this fsr, it’s known as… Creativity.

Not too hard. Amazingly powerful.

Wrapping up

I’m not saying gambiarras don’t have their place in world. They have their social and cultural value/need for sure.

My goal here was to bring you some insights on refocusing the challenges you face in your daily life.
From “doing it" to “let me understand it".
From “that’s the way to solve it" to “that’s ONE way to solve it".

The best solutions are the ones that better solve the root problem.

For the next idea you have: stop, think about the problem behind it, be open to brainstorm different hypothesis to solve it. And make this a continuous practice.



Daniela Castro

Product Designer & Educator | Lead Instructor at Ironhack Paris