Gordon/Little technique
Big Business
Gordon/Little technique
Gordon/Little technique
Sole Trader

Gordon/Little technique
A problem solving technique that encourages you step right back from the problem

The big idea

The idea behind this problem-solving technique is to encourage you to step as far away from a particular problem as possible. Developed by William Gordon (of Arthur D Little Consulting) in the 1960s, it involves a process of progressively more detailed revelation, to avoid defining the problem too soon and limiting possible solutions. He built this approach in response to a problem he witnessed with classical brainstorming whereby people begin the process by giving what they regard as ideal or obvious solutions and then their creativity trails away.


The purpose of the technique is to bring you out of the immediate detail of a particular problem. For example, instead of asking, “How do we get our audiences to spend another £2 each per visit,” you might ask:

  • “How do we make our audiences happy?”
  • After exploring this question in a little more detail you might ask, “How can we provide good customer service?”
  • Once answers to that question have finished you would get more specific still, “What do our audiences want from our programme/activities?”
  • Finishing with your original question, “How do we get our audiences to spend another £2 each per visit?”

It is mainly a tool for group discussion to ensure you get as wide a range of perspectives as possible, but you could try using it on your own with post-its and large sheets of paper for doodling your answers. (You would have to suspend your knowledge of the final question though!)

The Tool

This tool takes you through the technique and is ideally undertaken by a group. It is suitable for businesses of any scale or purpose. Set up a group and give yourselves enough time to work through the various layers of the problem, probably two to three hours.