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Have you ever seen a product or service and thought to yourself, “What in the world?!? Who would want that?!?”
I have. Mostly those websites offering to take care of your pets after the apocalypse, or the goldfish walker.
I attended Ruby on The Beach, a coding bootcamp in Bali, and my instructors, Bret, Trip and Daniel, got to talking as we sat in our van winding through the rice paddies of Ubud. All impressive vets of the coding world, I liked to listen as they chatted because of their differing perspectives and brilliant banter.
One of them said something that stuck out to me as we were riding along – and it basically rolled around in my head for the rest of the ride. They had been talking about a new app they just heard about.
“Yeah, that’s what I like to call a solution looking for a problem.” one of them said.
“Huh.” I thought. That’s a great way of putting something I’ve been observing since starting Chic CEO. Over the years, you can bet I hear from a lot of women, and you can also bet that I see a lot of solutions looking for a problem.
It’s an interesting idea and one that is much more prevalent than imagined. Oftentimes, we think something is so interesting that we move forward in building it without ever checking to see if anyone wants it, let alone pay for it. I like to think this is what Eric Reis was thinking when he wrote The Lean Startup. Validating your idea with customers is clearly the antidote for building a solution to no one’s problem.
So we must ask ourselves: What urgent need am I fulfilling? What problem am I solving?
You need to start with the problem, not the perceived solution.
We build businesses to solve problems, create jobs, make money, build something new, make impact and yes, help people. I’m not sure how much help a goldfish walker actually is.
I’ve heard a lot of ideas over these last few years that are really just solutions looking for problems. Apps are built, websites are created, prototypes are made, and disappointment inevitably follows as the market doesn’t want or need it.
42% of businesses fail due to “No Market Need.” If there isn’t a significant problem you are solving, the market doesn’t need it.
Always start with the problem – not your passion. I know, I know, you hear from all sorts of fabulous business gurus telling you to follow your passion. I agree with them – but not when it comes to your business. Follow the problem. If you happen to be passionate about it, great. You’ve hit the jackpot.
If you’ve said things like “I want to create an x that does y.” then you’re missing the mark. If you’ve said things like “I want to tackle z problem by potentially creating an x that does y.” then you are on the right track.
The problem will always be there, it’s the solution that will be fluid. For example, In the 1990’s I wanted to capture pictures with my friends, so I used a disposable camera. A decade later, my problem was that I wanted to capture pictures with my friends, so I used a digital camera. A decade after that, my problem was that I wanted to capture pictures with my friends, so I use my phone.
Always always start with the problem, not the solution. Put the problem in the middle of everything you do and look for creative ways to solve it. As your business evolves, your solution may change, but the problem remains. That’s what will keep you in business.
• When you create a solution first – you spend all of your time trying to convince people that they need it.
• When you create a solution first – you fall in love with your product and get stuck in something obsolete that never helps anyone.
• When you create a solution first – you aren’t truly innovating.
• When you start with a problem – you have the freedom and the space to create multiple solutions.
• When you start with a problem – you don’t fall in love with every one of your ideas, you fall in love with the best one.
• When you start with a problem – you have the opportunity to truly innovate.
Take a hard look at your business or your idea. Is the problem you’re solving in the middle of everything you do? Define the problem first, then enjoy the enormous space to create an effective solution.
May 28, 2019 at 02:02PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs