I was amongst the audience to a couple of pitches by youth entrepreneurs and this archetype of “we found this problem, and we created an app / website to solve it, we need money to scale this solution now” kept recurring. Defining and highlighting the problem is a significant step to identifying the solution – but the inherent elements of the problems that allows it to be solved using information technology has to be related to information.
The nature of problem solving is such that it should be mostly about the problem and less about the solution. I find it useful when people are able to characterise problems so clearly and well that the solution becomes almost a no-brainer. That’s really the value of most consultants because when we have problems, we tend to ask ‘What’s wrong’ but we don’t really observe the situation well. We are not going down enough into the way the problem distracts us from our end goal – rather, we focus on the phenomena we want to address rather than the mission we hope to accomplish.
I think before we articulate problems, we should first consider what is the mission in the subtext of the problem statement. Then draw out clear implications and consequences of not addressing the problem before diving into solutioning. And each part of the solution should speak to that subtext, and continue helping users get back on their feet to go about what they had wanted to do.
Too many solutions in the world are actually not about solving problems but about giving users new missions instead of old ones. They are more about distracting them from the root of their challenges. Take cosmetics for example; they pretend to deal with image when self-image is the underlying issue to be address. Imagine a beauty company that focuses on psychology as a solution. Won’t that be truly innovative?