Fall in Love with the Problem, Not the Solution

Imagine you have a brilliant idea to start a company. A lightning-bolt of inspiration led you to invent a razor blade for daily shaving that pivots more gently with special blades that last longer. You’re totally focused on this product idea as you raise money and launch your business.  Unfortunately, you’re complete focus on your new solution leads you to running the company into the ground. All your effort, time, and money… gone.

How could this happen? Where did you go wrong? You thought the product was exceptional, and expected customers to beat a path to your door. Perhaps you fell so deeply in love with your solution that you lacked flexibility to adapt and evolve, ultimately leading to your downfall.

On the other hand, imagine you became obsessed with the problem of shaving. Instead of inventing a single, rigid solution, you continue to explore dozens of different approaches to improve shaving from every perspective. Could you improve distribution? Packaging? Maybe you reimagine the entire experience of shaving altogether.  That’s how The Art of Shaving became one of the hottest retail brands in the U.S.

The leaders at the software company Intuit have an internal catchphrase: “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” By staying focused on your customers and the challenges they face, you’ll generate a steady stream of innovations rather than betting it all on a one-and-done invention.

As I build my next company, Fuel Leadership, our team obsesses over the problem of helping organizations and individuals perform better.  We set out to elevate and transform leaders to reach their full potential.

The company launched with a single solution – reimagining leadership events. Our first solution involves the fusion of a rock concert and a business conference by flying in celebrity business leaders to share their strategies and secrets with audiences around the world. A single-day experience that arms business leaders to perform better.

While we think this is a cool solution, we remain fixated on the problem we’re solving for our customers (how to become a more effective leader). As such, we’re rolling out dozens of new concepts – from online communities to digital learning – to help our customers improve.  We’re also open-minded enough to tweak and adapt our current offering to deliver an increasingly better solution.

In your case, do you focus on your current solution(s) or are you always seeking new, creative approaches to solve the most pressing problems facing your customers? Getting pigeonholed into a single approach can become a Fast Pass to obsolescence. As they say, customers don’t have a need for a 12mm drill bit. They have the need for a 12mm hole.

How can you remain relevant in these rapidly changing and fiercely competitive times? Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.