Welcome to Problem Wisdom

You are the visionaries.

You are social enterprise leaders, benefit corporations, development agencies and impact investors.

You stake your future on the power of business to make lives better in the face of colossal global challenges.

I developed Problem-First Thinking — a revolutionary approach to problem design — for you. Why:

Better problems = massive impact.

Problem-First Thinking saves you time, money and resources, attracts serious funding, lowers your risks, and delivers lasting solutions to the communities you serve.

Marie Aquilino, President

discover real-life stories

or find out why Albert Einstein insisted

If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.

I discovered that beginnings matter when you are trying to change the world during my years in post-disaster reconstruction.

I saw a dizzying mix of waste and missed opportunities because the problem wasn’t well defined or positioned, deliberate or relevant.

More, I saw commitment, excitement and hard work hijacked by solutions-first thinking. Ambitious solutions that are not founded on a sound problem plunder your resources and threaten your impact.

Here's a crazy example…

While I was working in Haiti, I learned of a remarkable story about a housing program in South Africa.

The new houses were too expensive for residents to maintain. So the owners sold them. But: The buyers were members of a tribe hostile to their neighbours.

The housing program provoked a mini civil war!

What went wrong?
Solutions-first thinking.

The agency in charge thought they were building houses. In reality, they should have been building peace among the communities.

Channeling Einstein: Why me and Problem-First Thinking?

Our love affair with solutions is simple. Solutions promise answers to hard-core challenges and seem permanent.

I am a specialist in post-disaster reconstruction and an historian of contemporary urban development.

After a PhD, 25 years as a university professor and 8 years in the field teaching architects to bring their skills to people in crisis, I’ve seen first hand how better problems allow leaders to recognize and operate within opportunity.

I know from experience that a good problem optimizes the ability to collaborate effectively from a shared vision. And I’m convinced that problem mastery magnifies the impact you have in the world.

I’ve also taken Einstein’s insight to heart in my personal life.

I am a “halterophile”. That’s French for Olympic weight lifter. Well, Olympic in style, at least. I learned and study in Paris at the the last platform in the city.

In Olympic Weightlifting, the beginning of the move is everything. If I forget to roll the bar up against my shins before I reach down to gage the position of my hands, my bar will fly forward and come down with a thud. There are 24 moves in the first 15 seconds of the first pull.

After years of practice, I finally get it. Beginnings matter. Because they lead to much better outcomes.

Problem-First Thinking at a glance

Problem-First Thinking is a revolutionary approach to problem design. We've identified 4 key attributes to getting the problem right: Acumen, Craft, Perspective, Impact.

Problem Acumen

Discover the real problem and the magic will transform your vision, insights, and initiative into breakthrough solutions.

Problem Craft

Shape the territory of the problem from its history and language to the trajectory of its culture through your commitment to the communities you serve.

Problem Perspective

Take hold of the problem in the right place.

Problem Impact

Act together on problems worth solving through the power of systems and networks.