Skip to main content

No existing solution? There might be no problem worth solving


- We don't have competitors.
- There are no existing solutions to this problem.
You often hear those kinds of statements from young product teams or entrepreneurs. It's often an argument for success. Experienced product teams know the absence of an existing solution is a worrying sign of a non-existent problem.

Problems worth solving

In product development exists an easy filter for problems worth solving. A problem should be urgent, pervasive and customers should be willing to pay for solving it. If a problem does not pass this filter, it might not be worse solving.

Painful problems always have solutions

Solutions might not be obvious or visible at the first sight. If a problem is seriously painful users will always find a way to solve it. Even if partly or very uncomfortable, but some solution would exist. Before we had WhatsApp we had SMS. Before we had SMS we had the telegraph. Before we had Wikipedia we had Oxford's Encyclopedia. Before we had encyclopedia we had our grandpas. Before we had Facebook we had facebook, you know, the real one. And how many problems been solved with Microsoft Excel? Including a problem of boredom in the office.

Innovation does not equal invention

Inability to find the product-market fit is one of the most common reasons for a new product to fail. A solution in search of a problem is one of the most common mistakes done in product development. Innovation is not about creating something radically new. It is about majorly improving something existing, something established. If you cannot find existing solutions to a problem, it might mean you're inventing something radically new, or it might mean the problem is not worth solving.

Innovation steps

In theory, the process of innovating is rather simple.
  • Find a painful problem worth solving (urgent, pervasive, willing to pay)
  • Research existing solutions 
  • Majorly improve the existing solution
  • Convince people to try your solution

Finding a problem

Understanding a problem space often becomes the key to a successful solution. Numerous ways exist to look for a problem and to analyze if the problem is worth solving.
Insider's tip: choose problems that interest you, ideally - problems you experience yourself. Having a passion for a problem you're trying to solve is a pre-requisite to a successful solution.

Researching existing solutions

If you cannot find existing solutions to a problem be on a high alert. You either haven't found them yet or a problem might not exist. The best way to find existing solutions is asking people who have the problem or/and observing their behavior.
Insider's tip: try Jobs-to-be-done framework to find existing solutions to a painful problem.

Improving existing solutions

Improvement comes in different shapes. Simplification is the first improvement to consider. If you could make an existing solution easier - you could lure users to your solution. Types of simplification:
  • Usability - easier to use
  • Effort - takes less physical and mental work. Cheaper. 
  • Networking effect - other people use it. Gives more value in a combination with other solutions.
Value solution provides is another improvement to aim. If you can deliver more value to users without increasing the effort - you're on the right path to winning.
Insider's tip: to increase your chances of success aim to be at least two times better than existing solutions.

Convincing people to switch

Just having a better solution is not yet enough to succeed with your product. You need to convince people to use your solution. Changing user behavior always difficult. Get yourself familiar with the "Hook" model by Nir Eyal. For people to switch to your solution, it should be much better than their existing one. Much simpler, much more rewarding and switching itself should be easy. If users already invested heavily (time, data, effort) into an existing solution they might be even harder to convince.
Insider's tip: check how people acquired their current solution and introduce yours through the same channels.

Summary

Before building any product check if a problem exists. Not only if it exists but if a problem is worth solving. Problem worth solving is urgent, pervasive and people willing to pay for solving it. Painful problems always have solutions. Discover existing solutions by talking with your target users and observing their current behavior. Make sure your solution could be much better than existing ones otherwise people might be reluctant to switch. Simplification and increased value are the first innovation goals to reach. Use existing, familiar channels to convince people to try your solution. Existing solutions are a valuable indicator of a problem worth solving. Take existing solution, make it much better, convince people to switch. So easy ;)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Product Vision: an elevator pitch for your product

On this blog, I write a lot about making data-driven decisions. But what if you just starting to think about your product? You have a vague idea and nothing more. No point to go for prototyping or even talking to customers as you don't know yet who to talk to and what to talk about. In such situation - start from creating a product vision.

Fogg Behavior Model

Have you ever wondered why you do certain things? Why are some behaviors easy and joy to do while other not so? And your customers - have you ever struggled to understand their behavior?
BJ Fogg, from Stanford University, has created simple and powerful behavioral model for persuasive product design.


7 steps of Product Discovery

Before building a product - how do you know what product to build? While building a product - how do you know what features are the most valuable? After you've built a product - how do you know if to tune stuff or add a new one?