Creative Problem Solving for Music Entrepreneurs: What’s the Problem?

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

It’s exciting to observe the process of creative problem solving!

Innovation can occur when you provide a solution to a problem that meets the deeper needs of your intended target audience. To do so, you need a good problem statement.

In my Innovation and Collaboration Class at the Yale School of Music, my students have now coalesced around 4 project groups.  As we worked towards a solution, we first had to understand the problem of each of our audiences.  This led us to examine the underlying needs of each audience.  We then were able to create problem statements.

Here’s the process we followed to create a problem statement that can lead to an innovative solution.


When we last left my students, we began the process of defining the problems to solve:

  • We focused on the Classical Music Ecosystem to decide what areas we were interested in helping.
  • We created Mission Statements to define the audiences that we wanted to help
  • We brainstormed the Ideal State for the Musician Ecosystem
  • We converged on the best ideas using the 3 I’s filter and by grouping into categories.

This resulted in 4 big problem areas in classical music that they were motivated to solve:

  • Stress among Musicians
  • Diversity
  • Cost
  • Elitism

We saw an interesting evolution of the project ideas in the week between classes.

For homework, students posted ideas an on-line discussion board where they shared and built upon each other’s ideas. By the time we started class the following week, we retained two of the problems and saw a change in two others:

  • Stress among classical musicians (same)
  • Lack of diversity in classical music (same)
  • Elitist perception of Classical Music among young adults (new)
  • Lack of education about classical music among young adults (new)

The ideas continued to evolve as students learned the processes of creating a problem statement.

What’s the Problem?

Creative problem solving involves solving complex problems that a particular audience is having.  The goal is to generate a novel solution to the problem that provides value to this audience. This involves defining your audience, understanding their deep needs and why they have this need.

A good way to start the process is to create a problem statement:

Our audience (defined) needs ( what) because (Why)

1. Define the audience

A good problem statement clearly identifies the audience who is experiencing a problem.  Our groups identified 4 audiences:

  • Musicians and Stress:  professional and pre-professional classical musicians at the Yale School of Music
  • Diversity:  students and families in the New Haven public schools.
  • Elitism:  college and graduate students in New Haven
  • Lack of education among young adults:  non-music Yale graduate students

Next, we explored what were the needs of each audience.

2. Discover the needs of each audience

To discover the needs of each audience, we discussed the emotional needs of a particular audience. First, we explored basic human needs, answering two questions:  what do we need more of and what do we need less of.

Audiences need more:

Connection, Love, Community,
Self-affirmation,  inspiration, engagement
Happiness, joy
Security, Certainty,

Audiences need less:

Anger, frustration,
isolation, loneliness
Hate, strife

With this is mind, our groups posited the following needs of their audiences:

Professional and pre-professional musicians need less stress, more inspiration, more community and more connection

Diverse audiences in New Haven public schools need less isolation and more inspiration, empowerment and inclusion

Elitism and Lack of Education in Classical Music:
Non-music college and grad students in New Haven need less stress and more community, connection and inspiration

3. Come up with a problem statement

Putting these elements together, here are the problem statements for each group:

Musicians need ways to cope with the stress and anxiety that they experience during and surrounding performance so that they can lead healthy lives and spread the joy of music freely.

Children in the New Haven public schools from diverse communities and their families need exposure to live music from diverse role models to empower them to share their voices and feel included in society.

Non-music college and graduate students at Yale need accessible and engaging community-building musical events to relieve stress, create more community and reflect upon their lives.

Non-music graduate and professional students at Yale need community, self-esteem and a broader perspective because of a human need for collaborative learning, creativity, and empathy in their lives and respective fields of work.

4. Assess the Reality

Our groups then explored what has already been done to meet these needs in order to provide a novel and valuable solution to the problem.  This is a process known as “Assess the Reality” where you research and collect data on the context of your problem, find out what has already been done to address the problem and figure out what needs to be done to better serve this audience.

Here’s what our groups discovered:


There are paid programs to address stress and performance anxiety among musicians. However, music schools do very little  to normalize the conversation around stress and performance anxiety. Moreover, there is no effective on-line platform where musicians can safely share about stress or access resources to help manage stress and performance anxiety.


Military bands and orchestras provide outreach concerts. However, these tend to be passive events where the audiences sits and listens to music and then leaves.  There are also community programs like Yale’s Music in Schools. However, these programs do not offer community-based interactive concerts with diverse student performers and diverse repertoire in community-based venues.

Informal concerts for non-music Yale students:

Group Muse and similar organizations provide informal house concerts. However, these are paid events and the focus is not on community building.  Moreover, people attending these events tend to have a prior exposure to classical music.

Workshop for non-music graduate students at Yale:

While there are music education programs for children and teens, there are few programs for adults that provoke creative thinking, introspection, awareness through empathy.

Next time:

With this in mind, it was time to brainstorm some novel solutions to these problems.  Tune in next time for ideation!