Reframing Problems with 5 Key Questions

Obsessed with details? Hold up! Diving too deep into individual needs might just eclipse the larger community goals you’re aiming for.

Reframing Problems with 5 Key Questions

If you're an early-stage community leader, you're in a unique position. You're juggling the need to be responsive to your community members' immediate concerns while also trying to make decisions that benefit everyone at scale. It's a delicate balance, one that requires a blend of empathy, strategy, and foresight.

Diving into the nitty-gritty of each issue might feel like the right move, but if you're not careful, you might end up focusing too much on individual needs at the expense of the broader community.

The trick lies in reframing problems in a way that addresses the here and now and sets your community up for long-term success.

Here's how you can balance this equation.

Dive Deep to Find the Real Problem

Before you try to fix anything, make sure you understand what's really going on beneath the surface. It's like being a detective at the scene of a crime, looking for clues.

  • Active Listening Sessions: Imagine you're at a community meeting, and instead of just nodding along, you're deeply listening to what people are actually saying. You're not there to offer immediate solutions but to understand the heart of the issue.
  • The "Why" Game: Remember when you were a kid and annoyed adults by asking "why" all the time? Time to bring that back. When someone presents a problem, ask "why" it's happening. Keep asking "why" to each answer until you can't go any deeper. This can be surprisingly useful.
  • Bring in Fresh Eyes: Get opinions from people outside the immediate community circle. Sometimes, a person who isn't in the weeds can see the garden better than you can.

Think Community, Not Individuals

This is about shifting your mindset from helping just one person to lifting the entire community. It's a perspective change that can lead to solutions benefiting everyone.

  • Community Brainstorming: Host a pizza night where the main attraction is tossing around ideas for solving community issues. Make it clear that you're looking for solutions that help everyone, not just a few.
  • Highlight Collective Goals: In your communications, whether it's a newsletter or a Facebook post, remind people of what you're all aiming for together. This keeps everyone aligned and motivated.
  • Team Projects: Encourage members to pair up or form small groups to tackle projects. This can help forge stronger bonds and a sense of belonging.

Build Solutions That Last

Once you've got a handle on the real problem and the community is thinking as a unified force, it's time to roll up your sleeves and get to work on solutions that stick.

  • Small-scale Trials: Before going all-in on a solution, try a mini version first. Think of it like a pilot episode of a TV show. If the community loves it, you've got a green light.
  • Iterate Based on Feedback: After your trial run, gather feedback like you're collecting treasure. What worked? What didn't? Adjust your plan accordingly.
  • Keep a Watchful Eye: Even after you've implemented a solution, keep tabs on how it's doing. Think of it as nurturing a plant; you don't just water it once and walk away. You have to keep checking in, watering, and sometimes pruning.

Key Questions You Can Use

Of course, it's highly unlikely this is already your default setting. In order to get you from where you are today to a place where you can act appropriately, here's a set of four questions you can use.

Use these to reframe problems and steer your community toward meaningful, long-term solutions:

  1. What’s the deeper issue here? This question remains pivotal. By digging beneath the surface of a problem, you uncover the root cause rather than getting sidetracked by its symptoms.
  2. What else do we need to know? Information is key. Understand the full scope of the problem by gathering as much relevant data as possible. This could involve seeking feedback from community members or researching similar challenges faced by other communities.
  3. What does this problem look like from another perspective? Viewing the issue through someone else's eyes can uncover overlooked solutions and highlight biases in your initial approach. This might involve imagining the problem from the standpoint of a community member, a partner organization, or even a detractor.
  4. How can we solve this problem without more resources? Challenge your team to think creatively about leveraging existing assets in new ways. This might involve repurposing materials, reassigning roles within the community, or finding free platforms and tools to bridge gaps.

The Final Word

Remember, there are times when speed is actually an enemy. This is never more true than when you're dealing with real people. Within the context of a community, striking a balance between the short and long-term benefits to your approach will help you set the tone for a vibrant community experience that feels fundamentally more human.

Remember that no one's expecting perfection. In a way, how you handle your community is proof of humanity and can ultimately be your moat.