Finding a real world problem to solve
As I have mentioned in previous posts a wave of entrepreneurs creating new ventures has a greater ability to solve the problems and capitalize on today’s opportunities than existing top down institutions. Since that time I have had the opportunity to work with many entrepreneurs and speak with other mentors and funders of entrepreneurship. While there are many good venture concepts that could lead to improvements in the world there are still many entertainment or recreation based ideas. These ideas add value by raising an interest in entrepreneurship, testing business models and advancing the technology itself. Now it is time to start turning the attention of entrepreneurs to serious problems and opportunities.
I have also discussed in previous posts that the entrepreneurial process starts with the problem and not the solution. The success of an entrepreneur that finds a problem that their potential customers consider worth paying to solve is substantially higher than the ones that start with a solution and try to find acceptance later. So we should start with the problems to solve.
The good thing about starting with problems to solve is that we have alot of them. And many of these are worth solving with people willing and able to pay for the solution. We need to look around us and see where we can improve life for ourselves and others. The problems don’t have to be the huge, change the world in one day kind. Often we are better to start small since we expect the ventures to build momentum over time as they grow and merge with other ideas.
Being critically observant or curious is a trait is essential to finding truly unique but important problems to solve. When you see things that don’t work as they should we can ask ourselves why and what would need to change to fix it. We should look at the system of cause and effects that created the problem. Use a series of questions to drill down to root causes. The first things we see are usually symptoms but not the cause of the problem. A systems view is important to understanding a problem well enough to begin looking for a way to solve it.
Many solutions will require the use of a unique business model to deliver it successfully. It is often not enough just to find a problem and build a simple solution. In the next post I will spend time talking about business model innovation and how to incorporate that.
For some background on finding problems to solve I refer you to the first three chapters of Innovator’s Solution by Clay Christensen. I also encourage you to work in small teams since people often see things from different angles. So I leave that as a starting point to find problems that matter where the solution helps the society we live in.