Twelve Favorite Problems

Twelve Favorite Problems


The concept of “Twelve Favorite Problems” was popularized by physicist Richard Feynmann. It refers to a list of 12 problems that Feynmann believed were important and interesting to work on. Feynmann believed that by focusing on a small number of important problems, one could make significant progress in their field. He believed that this was a better approach than trying to work on too many problems at once, which can lead to scattered efforts and less impact.

Feynmann’s “Twelve Favorite Problems” were not necessarily the most difficult problems in his field, but rather the ones that he found most compelling and that he thought would have the greatest impact if solved. The concept has been adopted by many others as a way to prioritize their efforts and focus on the problems that they find most interesting and important.


A business professional can write down a list of Twelve Favorite Problems to keep this set of challenges always top of mind. 

Whenever that professional reads an article, attends a conference, watches a video, or has a conversation, the individual can ask, “How could the ideas I just encountered help me solve one of my Twelve Favorite Problems.”

A hypothetical list for a CEO might include these questions:

  • How can our company generate more sales opportunities with our existing customers?
  • How can our company reduce the cost of our indirect expenses?
  • How can our company retain our top employees?
  • How can we improve the efficiency of our operations and reduce waste?
  • How can we enter new markets and expand our customer base?
  • How can we stay ahead of competitors and differentiate our products or services?
  • How can we develop the top talent within our organization?
  • How can we improve our financial performance and increase shareholder value?
  • How can we address potential risks or vulnerabilities in our business model?
  • How can we use technology to drive innovation and improve our operations?
  • How can we improve our environmental and social impact?
  • How can we build and maintain strong relationships with key partners?

Further reading:


Will Bachman