In May 2017, I was at a product talk and the following was said:
Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.
That quote has stuck with me since.
It’s easy for us to fall in love with the solution, instead of the problem
- If you’re a developer, you may be licking your chops to try out a new framework. The problem is simply a springboard to try one out.
- If you’re a marketer, you’re imagining all the cool things that you can do with this marketing campaign. The problem is secondary.
- If you’re a product manager, you’re thinking about all those oh-so-glorious features you can add to your product, and what that means for you and the product.
It’s easy to fall in love with the solution, and that can lead you astray from the problem
The solution may be cool, challenging, and fun to build, but what about the problem?
How many companies, products, or projects over the years have gone sideways as a result of teams falling in love with the solution, and not focusing on the problem? How many of them even understood what the problem was? How many companies lost track of what made them great in the first place by building solutions that they fell in love with instead of addressing problems?
To you, the problem might not be very sexy, but the solution sure is!
I remember an exercise from one of my Management Information Systems classes back in University.
We were in groups of five. Our Professor went around and gave each group lego. Like kids, we all started building. Of course you would…who wouldn’t start building when you have Lego in front of you? After about a minute, the professor yelled:
“STOP!!!” Don’t you even know what the problem is?
We didn’t. We didn’t care about the problem. We just wanted to play with lego.
This doesn’t just happen in University classes. Even large profitable companies can easily make this mistake.
So, how are you sure that your team is not falling in love with the solution, but instead focusing on (and falling in love with) the problem?
1. Admitting is the first step.
If you and your team are more excited about the cool features that you can add to your product without ever thinking about the problem, now is the time of admittance to guilt. Best to get that out of the way now instead of later.
2. Take a step back. Take a step WAY back.
Step away from the Lego. Take a step away from the computer. Don’t be afraid.
3. Ask your team: “What problem are we trying to solve?”
Can you and your team all agree on the problem that you are trying to solve? Do you have many different ideas of what you think the problem is? We’ve all worked at companies or teams that have had very different ideas of what they thought the problem was. Is your team in the same boat?
4. Fall in love with the problem.
Go talk with your customers. Talk with them some more. Talk with more customers. Keep going. Forget your fancy solution. Perhaps now you’ve identified the problem, and the solution that you need to build isn’t as sexy as you thought, but it addresses the problem. That’s what your customers care about. They don’t care about the framework you used or what you did behind the scenes as long as it addresses their pain points.
It’s very easy to fall in love with the solution, and completely forget about the problem.
It’s human nature. You just want to jump in and make your cool solution, but you may very well be ignoring the problem. Focus on the problem, fall in love with that, and let the solution follow.