Make Products That Matter: Avoiding Solutions in Search of Problems

Jenna Rodrigues
February 22, 2021

In all areas of marketing and product design, one rule is predominant above all others:

Identify your customer’s problems, and solve them.

Do this, and you’ll become the company that provides incomparable value, prompting consumers to flock towards your products as the much-awaited answer to their woes.

Identifying a problem to solve is one of the most crucial and difficult parts of the product design process. Maybe you’re seeing customers dissatisfied with the user experience provided by competing products. Or perhaps you think you have just the solution for a better mousetrap. Often, as you search for gaps to fill, you will miss the actual problems customers face because they are buried several layers deep.

At this stage, many companies just swoop in, take those initial surface level problems and build the solution. Not so fast! You likely have, and are building, a solution in search of problems.

What’s a Product in Search of a Problem?

Products in search of a problem are created out of a perceived gap in the market and hope to improve or fill that gap. This often begins with developing the solution first and then going in search of the problem it solves and the users it will benefit. Consequently, the final product doesn’t solve an issue that actually exists. i.e., it isn’t needed.

Instead, the first step should be to determine whether the market needs a solution to the problem you are setting out to solve. This is why we recommend working with a Product Design Agency. They are trained to correctly identify a problem and, as such, avoid solutions in search of problems.

How Culture Impacts The Development Process

The development process for products in search of a problem is often similar. It starts with a senior leader that has an idea for a solution and often a feature list. Rather than asking for input, they give directives to a development team to build the product and features as outlined.

Then, the team blindly follows the roadmap without diving into the market fit or the competitive feature set. They’re not given the freedom to explore the real purpose of their product. Consequently, you end up with developers that are out of touch with the problem they’re trying to solve and seldom given the motivation to explore solution paths that work.

Following this approach you end up with a short-cut product that addresses the consumer’s problem on a surface level or not at all.

You might think your business hasn’t run afoul of this process. And if it hasn’t — fantastic! But the truth is most employees, or freelance designers, aren’t encouraged to pursue this level of autonomy. In most firms, developers are told what to do, complete the brief, and push any doubts about a project aside. They are victims of poor culture and it doesn’t lead to innovation or fantastic products!

Many of these issues can easily be avoided by adopting a product mindset and ensuring team members are encouraged to explore problems and communicate their perspective. This means shifting team culture from focusing primarily on delivery to focusing on problem solving.

So how do you avoid wasting time and money creating unnecessary products?

The answer is a shift in perspective, both for you as a leader and for your business’s culture.

Unleash the Entrepreneurial Power of Your Team

Most likely, your team already comprises brilliant minds just waiting for permission to reach their full potential. However, as we’ve already said, traditional corporate culture doesn’t leverage individual entrepreneurial thinking. Instead, many businesses still function as one-way hierarchies. The leader conjures up a predetermined solution that their minions are expected to follow.

The result? You only tap into a fraction of the talent your team possesses.

The solution? Instead of handing off a solution to your team to develop, present them with the problem you’re trying to solve. Once they have a clear understanding of the issue, explain what makes a successful solution. Once your team has this info in hand, encourage them to research and innovate to find the best possible outcome.

If you’re not a leader but a team member, why not try this approach yourself, and encourage your colleagues to do the same when you’re given a new product to work on?

Get to The Root of The Problem

Don’t just take surface-level insights from users. This is also imperative for creating more meaningful products.

To develop a comprehensive solution to an issue, the development process must start and end with the user. So, speak to your target audience in-depth. Learn how they interact with similar software and collect information on their thoughts. Understand what’s most crucial for their user-experience and what they would like to see in a new product.

With this data at your fingertips, you and your team have a better foundation for developing something that brings genuine value to your audience.

Are You Ready to Start Creating Real Solutions?

When the excitement for a new idea arises, it’s easy to get swept up in the process and not check if the final app provides a service users desire. But ultimately, if you want users to love your product, the value it brings to people’s lives needs to be the priority.

If you want to discuss building a product from scratch or an existing product, book a free consultation with us today.

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