Perceptions in Problem Solving

If the first step in problem solving is defining the problem, shouldn’t step zero be defining the definition of problem?  In reading “Are Your Lights On?” by Gerald Weinberg, I cam across this gem:

A Problem is a Difference

Between Things as Desired,

and Things as Perceived.

Having performed many gap analyses, I have often defined problems as the difference between reality and desired outcome.  But what the statement above brings to light is we can solve problems by:

1. Redefining our Desires

2. Redefining our Perception of Reality

3. Closing the gap between Desire and Perception of Reality

But then I had another thought:  what about if I reword the axiom like this?

A Problem is a Difference

Between Our Perception of Things as Desired,

and Things as Perceived.

Our Desires are also Perceptions – perceptions of our inner thoughts, or in an organization, perceptions of the organizations’, and people in the organization’s, thoughts.  How often do we solve problems incorrectly just because we haven’t truly defined what is is that we want?

Understanding what we really want is the first step is problem solving.