Great innovation usually starts with a problem to solve. But great problems rarely present themselves on their own and are not always obvious. The key to groundbreaking innovation is identifying what the next great problem actually is.

At the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, we are transforming education with a unique method of “problem discovery.” We teach the process of finding problems that are not yet defined or not even yet known – the ones that ask “What’s next?” and “What is over the horizon?”

Problems discovered not by getting out of the building, but by getting out of your head — and your current frame of reference.

Building upon the research-centric focus of Johns Hopkins University, students at the Center for Leadership Education search at different boundaries of uncertainty: from the present forward (“What’s probable? What’s plausible?”) and from the future back (“What’s possible?”).

By exploring possible futures, students discover previously un-articulated problems worth solving. Students use a wide variety of tools to understand the implications of changes in technology, society, politics, and the economy. They identify critical uncertainties that could define entirely different futures. They look for current solutions that may radically change the course of events and open new vistas. And they imagine the challenges, opportunities, and needs that people will face, finding solutions that help create a better future.