A newsletter on progress-space research and audience development for cultural leaders. One reader calls it, "sometimes funny"

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Yesterday’s Problem Space Group meetup in the MAP Community has me wondering if it’s time to retire the term “problem space”.

So, today, I’m asking for your help in thinking this through.

Context: In yesterday’s meetup, we were talking about when problem-space research might be useful or when viewing our work through the lens of JTBD might help us in our work.

I shared the latest diagram of the research field with participants; I’ll share it here in the hopes that it helps you visualize how there are two overarching spheres when it comes to understanding audiences, The Problem Space and The Solution Space:

Yesterday’s discussion got me thinking about a few problems with the term “problem space” (the left half of the diagram):

  1. The term “problem space” is often associated with the organization’s problems. But if we’re talking about the challenges an organization faces, that is not the problem space — That is the solution space. We are evaluating the organization in terms of it’s purposes or trying to generate new ideas or solutions that will support the organization. The problem space is focused on people’s purposes, not the organization’s problems.
  2. “Problem space” is negative. While it may be true that in the problem space people are trying to solve their problems, that’s not always the case. Often, we’re trying to make progress toward becoming a “better me” in the problem space, which is about more about improvement and less about solving a problem.
  3. “Problem” feels small. Running out of milk while you’re cooking is a problem. We’re talking about that kind of problem in the problem space, though — We’re thinking in terms of people’s life goals. Conversely, I wouldn’t call Wanting to Be a Better Parent a problem — It’s complex and goal-oriented. It’s more of a challenge than a problem.

So what’s a better term for that half of the diagram that is not the solution space?

The Challenge space? The Purpose space? The Progress space? The Liminal space?

Something else?

Let me know in a reply, share feedback here, or leave a comment on the blog.


P.S. Part of me thinks, “Who cares what you call it? Isn’t this just semantics?” But semantics is meaning — Having a shared understanding of the meaning of words seems important in the context of a community of practice. And changing the name of The Problem Space will impact how everything is framed for newsletter readers and community members. So, it matters, I think. Thanks for thinking it through with me.


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