This post is a call to spend more time with problems than with solutions. In the process of innovating, we tend to spend more time brainstorming solutions and imagining our ideas (which are nothing but assumptions of a potential solution). Unfortunately, those brainstorming and ideation sessions are more or less solving problems we do not yet understand. And the reason for that? We assume right off the bat that the problem exists, that it is worth solving for, and that our understanding of it is a fact.
In Capshare’s beautifully written article, Startup Ideas: How the Best Founders Get Them and Why Novelty is Overrated, they share a very interesting finding. Apparently, serial entrepreneurs get their ideas from either “scratching their own itch” or from “industry expertise”. Let’s take a second and think about what that means. “Scratching your own itch” essentially means that you are solving your own problems. What this also means is that you have probably spent time with this problem, facing it on a consistent basis. On the other hand, “industry expertise” means that you have spent so much time understanding the industry you’re in and its problems. In both cases, there is inherently a lot of time spent exploring problems and understanding them thoroughly before deciding to solve them.
First and foremost, you should not adopt a lean startup mentality this early. Don’t go jumping pivoting from problem to problem. You can pivot all you like once you start ideating and prototyping. Instead, write down the problems you are faced with. In a previous post, I advocated for using a little notebook where you can jot down recurrent problems that you face on a day to day basis. Furthermore, ask and inquire about the problem you decide to tackle. Make sure you fully understand it. If the problem pertains to an industry or subject you’re unfamiliar with, seek out the assistance of an expert. I understand that you want to go from idea to prototype as fast as possible, but you want to take your time going from problem to idea. At least that’s what the successful serial entrepreneurs do.