Wednesday, August 28, 2013

problems worth solving

In The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki presents (insists on?) three reasons to start a business: to make people's lives better, to right a wrong, and to keep something good from disappearing. His opinion is that if your business idea doesn't have one of these motives at heart, it has a low chance of success.

These aren't bad jumping off points for innovation projects. One definition of innovation is solving valuable problems, sometimes problems that no one identified as such. I suppose the most famous inventors and entrepreneurs could be described as solving problems people didn't know they had, or didn't imagine could be solved.

The great news for us is that problems are everywhere, all the time! The art is in seeing them as launchpads for something interesting...

Eric Ries and Ash Maurya have both provided a very clear method for discovering and validating valuable problems. Essentially, whether the problem (read opportunity) is coming from your users or clients, or from you yourself, it's important to check that the problem really exists and is worth solving. In these first weeks of working with innovation, I perceive that problem validation is even more key than I'd realized....

Since most of us got into our jobs by cultivating expertise, there's something inherently off-putting about interviewing people before you start prototyping solutions. But jumping to solutions, and solution testing, can be a big mistake, especially if you test you solutions with people who may not have the problem. Here's an example: if you show me six designs for a diamond ring, I can certainly give you a strong opinion about which one is the best. But as I will probably never buy such a ring, how much will my opinion really be worth to you?

Problem validation allows you to make sure you have something worth solving, while identifying and potentially capturing early adopters for your product, service or process. And, to be honest, it's fun too, because in addition to confirming that you have an interesting idea, the people you interview might mention a few other juicy problems along the way!

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