The Problem Statement

The Problem Statement Tool

In the 1950s, experts believed that the ocean-going freighter was going to be a thing of the past. No matter how hard they tried, the shipping industry was unable to cut the costs of ships at sea from port to port … until the first shipping container was invented and patented in 1956 by an American named Malcolm Mc Lean. The US military adoption of the ISO shipping container in the 70s resulted in its acceptance by every shipping line and country of the world. The cost to load a loose cargo in 1956 was $5.86 per ton. Using a ISO shipping container, the cost was reduced to only 0.16 cents per ton. (source:

This example illustrates how the definition of the problem oftentimes determines the solution. It made all the difference in this case, whether the focus of the solution finding was in between the ports, or at the port itself. In the story Jack and the beanstalk, all that Jack’s mother wanted was to sell the cow in order to get some money to buy the next meal. She did not set out to solve the fundamental problem at the root of their situation… their poverty.

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