Ideation 4: Selecting Problems

Selecting Problems

Ideation 4

This lesson will help you narrow down a problem to tackle and help you earn maximum points in the "Innovation" line of the judge rubric

In this unit, you will...

  • Check the scale of your problems and solutions
  • Decide on a problem and solution with your team

Key Terms

  • Solution  - an app you create to solve your problem
  • Scale  - the size of your problem or solution

Problem and Solution Scale

In this lesson, you will check the scale, or the size of the problems and solutions you want to work on. By the end of the lesson you will be ready to start work on a problem with a solution you know will be meaningful and important to you and your community.

Check the scale of your team's selected problems by asking these questions about each one:

  • Is this a really big problem?
  • Has the problem appeared in national or global news?
Room for Innovation

Once you decide on a couple of top problems, you can continue to brainstorm solutions and check the scale of your top solution ideas.

As you brainstorm solutions, revisit the types of innovations from the Brainstorming Problems lesson: Improve, Reduce the cost, Educate, Apply, Invent. What type of innovation do you think is needed for your problems from these categories?

Then check the scale of your solution ideas by asking these questions about each:

  • Does the solution try to solve a really big problem? Or a part of a really big problem?

It's ok to break a big problem down into smaller problems.

Room for Innovation

Once you have a lot of ideas of how to solve your problem, you should start thinking about which solution would be the best created with a mobile app and which ones are innovative. Some of your ideas might already include a mobile app, while some will not. Think about all of your ideas and try to come up with ways to take advantage of the capabilities of a mobile app.

Here are some examples:

Potential Solution How to make it better with a mobile app
Help the city figure out which trash cans should be emptied more often Ask people who live in your community to take a picture and tag the location of overflowing trash cans. This information will be sent directly to the city for them to come empty the trash can
Add bigger trash cans
Give out tickets for leaving large items on the street
Start a community club that cleans up the streets on Sundays to help people feel more involved Create an app that lets people connect who want to start their own clean up groups
Make it easier for people to get rid of these items by starting a service that will come pick them up at people’s homes Use a mobile app for your service for people to call you directly and send you a picture of what they need you to pick up
Put up posters asking people not to throw trash on the ground
Get the city to put in more trash cans Set up an app that lets people donate money to the city to get more trash cans in their neighborhood

As you can see, not all of the solutions you think of will be made better by creating a mobile app. For instance, creating an app for people to donate money to the city might not be the best use of your time. There are already a lot of websites you can use that will already do that. Additionally, designing a bigger trash can that can hold more trash does not necessarily need to make a mobile app.

Are you ready to select your problems and solutions? Move on to the activity section.

Activity: Selecting Problems

  1. Add any new problems you have thought of since the last meeting to your problem list from Ideation 2: Brainstorming Problems.
  2. Select a few of your team’s favorite problems. To check the scale of each problem, ask these questions:
    • Is this a really big problem?
    • Has this appeared in national news?
    • Does the problem affect a significant number of people?
    • Are there national foundations, nonprofits, companies, or startups interested in the problem?
    • Can you find 3 existing companies or solutions that are doing what you want to do? (If yes, it will be more difficult to come up with an innovative solution)
  3. If you can answer yes to most of the first four questions and you are still interested in the problem, move it to your short list. If you can’t answer yes to many of the first four questions, you may want to brainstorm further and explore more ideas.

Activity: Brainstorming and Selecting Solutions

What you will need:

  • Post-its or paper
  • Pens or markers
  • Or, if you are on a virtual team, you can use ideaboardz.

If you do not have access to a printer you can also use blank sheets of paper or follow along with the worksheet online.

Brainstorm solutions

  1. Draw large boxes on the board or big paper for each type of innovations from the Brainstorming Problems lesson: Improve, Reduce the cost, Educate, Apply, Invent.
  2. For each of your top problems, take a few minutes to brainstorm types of innovations that could help solve your problems from these categories.

Select solutions

  1. To check the scale of each solution, ask these questions:
    • Does the solution try to solve part of a really big problem?
    • Can you find 3 existing companies or solutions that are doing what you want to do with your solution? (If yes, how will your solution be different and innovative?)
    • Are you keeping the user, aka the person or people whom the problem affects, in mind?
    • Can the solution leverage the features of mobile phones, such as GPS, accelerometer, camera, etc? If it does not, try thinking of how you could make it using a mobile app.
  2. Once you have at least two ideas that your team thinks solve the problem, meet your user’s needs, is innovative in some way, and makes good use of mobile phone features such as GPS, accelerometer, camera, etc., then move on to the next ideation lesson.


Congratulations! Now that you have identified a solution to your problem, you can move onto Ideation lesson 5 and Ideation lesson 6, to complete market research about your idea and to write a problem statement. Your idea will probably change as you do this program, you might end up with an app that looks completely different than what you are envisioning now. Don’t worry, this is all a part of the ideation process!

  • What problem and solution will you focus on?
  • What are some problems that your team has identified that can NOT be addressed by an app solution?
  • How will your solution be innovative?

Additional Resources

Example Technovation Girls Apps

Here are some examples of Apps that solve problems relating to trash and trash disposal.

Eedo  by The Cantavits

81% of people dispose of e-waste improperly, which results in toxic fumes and polluted water. Eedo is an Android app solution that provides an end-to-end connection between e-waste producers and authorized recyclers.

ZeroWaste (0 Waste) by 3BigTomatoes

ZeroWaste provides a simple way to help people recognize different types of waste in their home and how to recycle, reuse, and reduce them properly. It provides pictures, videos and games to help people, especially children and new comers with language limits, to understand local waste collecting rules, and also promote the awareness of "0 waste" to protect our environment. It can be used in different cities and by everyone. It's fun and educational, and most importantly, it's free!

Discardious by Team Charis

Discardious is an app that helps to solve the problem of improper waste disposal in Nigeria. When using the app, users can elect a location using Google Map to get started. The app allows them to either report a hazard in their environment or request a mobile cart to pick up their waste.