Understanding your problem is critical to solving it. No matter how awesome your idea may seem, if it does not solve a problem, it will struggle to become financially viable.
Problem = Market Opportunity.
To transform any idea from concept to creation, there needs to be a market for that idea. One of the biggest challenges I have found in working with thousands of aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs has been correctly and clearly stating a problem and making sure it is the correct problem to solve.
Ideas are easy to come by. If we sat a group of 5 people down and gave them 10 minutes to write ideas down, we would easily have a list of at least 50+ ideas! Ideas are truly, as the saying goes, a dime a dozen. Ideas are cheap. Solving validated problems and executing those solutions is what ultimately matters.
The problem and solution dilemma that I often encounter at events like Startup Weekend is that people come in excited about an idea; what is not always so clear is what problem it solves. The good news is that you already know the problem, the bad news is that you skipped over it so quickly, you didn’t even notice it.
So, which came first? It was definitely the problem. Even though ideas (i.e. insights) often seem to spark out of nowhere, they actually come from a complex and seemingly magical interaction and culmination of problem awareness, solutions for other problems, and your personal knowledge bank. POOF! All of a sudden, you have an idea. The underlying processes happen so quickly and subconsciously, that you believe the idea just came to you.
At this point, your mission is to figure out what problem your idea solves. This poses a challenge to many, but it is critical you understand your problem clearly before you move on, or else you risk possibly solving the wrong problem. Further more, if your problem is too broadly defined, you may pursue a solution so complex that your customer will struggle to understand it.
Below are 30 questions/challenges to help you step back and identify the problem to your solution/idea. Completing these questions will help you understand the following:
- The job to be done that is affected by the problem
- The person(s) or group(s) affected by the problem, directly or indirectly
- The problem; when and how it manifests itself to each group
- What the problem costs the user and/or the customer
- The scope of the problem (market size)
Complete the 30 questions below in order to clearly understand your problem and market opportunity.
- Describe the moment that someone realizes she wishes she had your solution. Be specific. Write this as a story.
- What original job or task was she attempting to perform/complete when she runs into a problem? Going forward, we will call this job or task the job to be done.
- Does she even realize there is a problem? While you (the entrepreneur) may know the problem has occurred, your customer may not.
- When, specifically, does the problem occur? You might find this in your response to question #1.
- When does the problem become noticeable? Problems can occur, but they may not be noticeable until later or when it’s too late.
- When does does the problem actually get noticed by someone?
- Describe what happens leading up to that moment when someone becomes aware of the problem. Tell it as a story.
- What does she say or think to herself as she becomes aware of the problem?
- How does she know it is a solvable problem?
- What is/are the pain point/problem(s)? List them and be specific.
- How is she currently solving the pain point or problem? List all possible ways.
- How does the problem affect the end result of the main job to be done? Be specific and measurable where possible.
- What, if any, are the additional burden/costs incurred as a result of the problem affecting the job to be done?
- How is this pain point/problem measured? Brainstorm as many metrics as you can and be creative. You may find a metric your future customer has not yet considered.
- Based on that/those measurement(s), what value is considered very bad? Not so bad? Average? Good?
- How does the value/cost of the problem vary as you move up or down the measurement scale of the problem? Some problems can get very expensive with even just an incremental increase. Think of a flat tire. One flat tire can be replaced by you with your spare tire in the trunk. Increase that to two flat tires and now you need a tow truck to come rescue you and your car.
- Who directly suffers from the problem? Who indirectly suffers from this problem? Brainstorm as many people as you can that are directly or indirectly impacted by the problem.
- Describe each group of people you listed above that suffer from the problem? For each description, include how they are impacted by the problem.
- How is this suffering or impact measured? Brainstorm as many ways as you can.
- What job to be done was each group attempting to complete or perform?
- Are all of the groups you identified aware they are suffering from a problem? How so? or how not?
- Which group(s) know this problem is solvable?
- How are the group(s) currently solving the problem?
- How much is this problem worth to each of the groups, separately?
- What does it cost in the short-term? What does it cost in the long-term?
- Which groups, if any, would be most able to pay to solve this problem?
- Which groups, if any, would be most willing to pay to solve this problem?
- How many people are attempting to perform this job to be done? Every day? Every month? Every year?
- Of that number, how many are likely to encounter the problem? How did you arrive at that number?
- What sets them apart from the ones who do not suffer from the problem?