As an L&D professional, it's probably safe to say that one of your unofficial titles is Professional Problem-Solver. And there are many to solve.
For example, you may have a lack of resources, or be facing resistance to change. Another problem you might face is measuring the ROI of L&D programs. And there is always the problem of balancing learner desires and organisational goals.
One tool that can help problem-solving seem less like firefighting and more structured and data-driven can be opportunity mapping.
What is opportunity mapping?
Opportunity mapping, a concept borrowed from product management, can be an effective tool for L&D professionals to define their initiatives and drive impact.
“Opportunity mapping is a tool for deciding the best solutions to problems to achieve specific outcomes.” - Tom Stanley, Senior Product Manager at Filtered
It works by reframing the symptoms of a problem to better address the root cause.
An example of this is the elevator problem, where the original problem was perceived to be that elevators take too long. However, by reframing the problem, it becomes clear that the real issue is that people get bored in elevators. This opens up two potential solutions; either make the elevators faster or add elevator music.
I guess we know which option won out…
Benefits of Opportunity Mapping in L&D
Overall, opportunity mapping enables a thorough exploration of all possible opportunities, leading to better alignment with organisational goals and needs. You can ensure that you arrive at the right solution for the problem at hand, as it enables the evaluation of all feasible and possible solutions.
Some of its benefits include:
- Strategic planning: Opportunity mapping can help you link your programs to specific outcomes, like improving employee engagement, increasing productivity, or reducing turnover. In turn, by identifying opportunities with the most potential impact, you can ensure that your programs are aligned with organisational goals and OKRs.
- Resource allocation: By evaluating each opportunity's feasibility and potential impact, you can identify which solution would need the most resources: time, money, or personnel. You can then allocate resources efficiently and effectively, ensuring that the chosen solution is implemented successfully.
- Continuous improvement: Identifying areas for improvement and potential opportunities can help you iterate your learning content strategy over time, ensuring that it remains relevant and practical.
- Innovation and creativity: Conducting opportunity mapping exercises also encourages innovation in problem-solving. You can identify creative ways to solve problems by exploring all possible solutions, even unconventional ones which could lead to breakthrough solutions.
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How to conduct an opportunity mapping exercise
Before you begin, it’s essential to bring in diverse perspectives. While opportunity mapping has many benefits, it is not a cure-all. It is only as good as your understanding of opportunities and challenges, and contextual knowledge is still required.
With that in mind, let’s begin👇
Identify the problem or opportunity. The first step is clearly defining the problem or opportunity you want to address. This could be anything from improving employee engagement, reducing turnover, and increasing productivity.
- Starting with an outcome: Define your ideal outcome, and then investigate the blockers to this outcome.
- Starting with a problem: Define the problem statement, and the outcome you want to achieve by solving the problem.
Brainstorm possible solutions. Once you have identified the problem or opportunity, brainstorm as many possible solutions as possible. This can be done individually or as a group, and it's important to encourage creativity and open-mindedness at this stage.
Evaluate each solution. Evaluate each solution based on its feasibility and potential impact. Feasibility refers to whether the solution is realistic and achievable, given the resources and constraints of the organisation. Potential impact refers to the potential benefits or risks associated with the solution.
Categorise the solutions. Categorise them into clusters based on their similarity or relatedness. This can help identify patterns and themes that can be used to guide further analysis.
Develop the opportunity solution tree. Based on the categorised solutions, develop an opportunity solution tree. The tree should have a clear problem statement at the top and several branches representing the different categories of solutions. Each branch should then be broken down into sub-branches representing the individual solutions.
For a more detailed breakdown of opportunity solution trees, visit the Product Talk blog.
Evaluate the tree. Evaluate the opportunity solution tree based on each solution's feasibility and potential impact. This can be done through further analysis, research, or stakeholder consultation.
Choose the best solution. Based on the evaluation, choose the best solution or a combination of solutions to implement. This solution should be aligned with organisational goals and needs, and should have the potential to make a significant impact. you can use a prioritisation framework for the best solution. For example, you could create an impact/effort matrix. Some additional frameworks you can borrow from the world of product management include the MoSCoW Method, RICE scoring and the KANO Model.
Implement and monitor the solution. Implement the chosen solution and monitor its effectiveness over time. This can be done through various surveys, feedback, and performance metrics.
Adjust as needed. Based on the monitoring, adjust the solution as needed to ensure that it remains aligned with organisational goals and continues to make a positive impact.
Evaluate and iterate your learning strategy
You can use this tool as part of your overaching learning content strategy.
In our Complete Learning Content Strategy Playbook, evaluating and iterating is a pillar of the process to ensure that your efforts are always in a virtuous cycle of positive growth rather than getting stuck in the weeds of content chaos.
Opportunity mapping is a problem-solving technique from the world of product management. It can be valuable tool for L&D professionals to achieve specific outcomes and drive impact.
By using this technique, you can ensure that you arrive at the right solution to the problem, leading to better alignment with organisational goals and needs.