Ideas are the raw material for innovation. But it doesn’t suffice merely to have great ideas. What entrepreneurship calls for is ideas that can work. What that essentially means is that your ideas are good if and only if there are any takers for them. Ideas that solve real-world problems always have takers. So, it’s not ideas that you base your business on. It is problems that need solving that you base your business on.
One of the most important things you can do to insure your startup against failure is to identify a problem before you create a solution. So, the question is: How to find a problem worth solving? Over the next few minutes, we will go over a series of questions which will help you find a problem that needs solving.
1. What are you passionate about?
Entrepreneurship is challenging. There are a lot of things at stake, including your time, money, and energy. You want to be sure that you identify a problem that you feel passionately about. Minus the passion, you will not be able to give your best to your business, and working for it will feel no different from the job that you gave up to pursue your entrepreneurial ambition. Unless you are willing to see the problem through to the end and face every challenge that may arise along the way, you may not want to go after the problem at all.
2. Is there a real need for the product you intend to create?
Your passion will be meaningful only if it is directed towards solving a problem that bothers a large number of people. Too many great startup ideas fall flat on the face because they sell solutions to problems that don’t exist, not for a sufficiently large number of people at least. Successful entrepreneurs don’t sell products; they solve problems.
3. Is this an inconvenience or something bigger than that?
There is nothing wrong with trying to fix an inconvenience. Doing so will make people’s lives better, no doubt. The only issue is that when you want to scale, you need a problem that exists for a large and diverse group of people. Solving a problem, as against fixing an inconvenience, will make your business sustainable in the long run.
4. Has anyone else tried to solve it?
a) If yes, what went wrong for them? Was it the price? Was it the lack of market? Was it poor implementation? This analysis will help you understand if this is at all a problem that needs solving.
You also need to ask yourself what it is that you can do differently. If you can offer a solution that is cheaper, better, smarter, faster, or stronger, the problem is well worth solving. If not, you will find yourself struggling due to your inability to differentiate.
b) If no one has tried to solve this problem, ask yourself: Why not? This is a crucial question to ask. If something like prohibitive costs have prevented others from venturing into this territory, things are unlikely to be easy for you either. But if it is something like technology that wasn’t available before but is now, the problem is worth solving.
5. What value will you be able to offer your customers?
To what extent will your solution solve the problem? Will it give your customers considerable cost or time savings? Will it help them use your solution more securely? Will it make communication hassle-free for them? The value you will be able to offer will define whether it’s a problem you should be solving. If you can make a marked difference to people’s lives, you have found a problem worth solving.
6. What happens after you have solved the problem?
Problems can change shape and form over time. Will your solution be able to adapt to the problem or will it lose its relevance? Losing relevance is a well-known risk in the technology space. If your solution will have a short shelf-life, the problem you intend to go after may not allow your business to be viable in the long run. In such a case, you need to re-evaluate your passions and look for a new problem.
Entrepreneurs are, by definition, passionate people full of amazing ideas. It is easy for them to get carried away by their love for their ideas. The market, however, does not care for how an entrepreneur feels about their ideas. It’s a rational space that weighs ideas on the usability scale. Ideas that solve a problem receive validation; the ones that don’t are mercilessly rejected. Entrepreneurs, who solve problems instead of selling ideas or solutions, and who don’t latch on to their ideas but instead learn from the market, go on to taste success.