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First let me say that I love The Design of Everyday Things. I've read it twice myself and have recommended it to soooo many people. It was a most excellent whack on the side of the head.

I agree that spending time to really define a set of problems is worthwhile. I think there are lots of people ready to solve aging problems, but they have no first hand experience with the problem. It can lead to hearing aids for older people that require the eyesight of a younger person to operate.

A problem definition, background information, and a solution become a "recipe".

Our group could work to define a number of problems and explore them from many directions. Then for each we could talk about solutions that exist today and where they fall short. Then a visioning exercise for each to describe a great solution. We might even have several great solutions, each solving a different aspect of the problem we defined.

Knowing this structure ahead of time would also let our discussion jump around a bit. In our group some people will always want to offer solutions immediately. Rather than shut them down, we can let them talk about the solution, log it, and ask them to write it up to add to the recipe. Then we bring the group back up to the higher level discussion of the problem and continue. With a meet-up group like ours we have to accept that the path to the end will not be linear. As facilitators we have to keep the end goal in mind and guide the group to it.

Our end objective could be to create a "recipe book" of well defined problems with excellently described solutions. With these recipes available to everyone in the world, some creative people looking for things to make might just pick some of ours and the world would then have the solution available to use.

As a side effect, by publishing our solutions we make it more difficult for someone in the world to invent the idea later and take it out of the public domain. Once we have a solution published, then it's there for everyone to use.