Look, a Problem!

Looking for a new problem to solve? Luckily, the world is not running out of ways for you to create new products and services – just look around. Step one on your journey for problems begins when you wake up. On this day, you shall view the world differently then before. You’ll smell the roses, and watch out for the thorns. Remember those thorns! Observing the world around you be on the lookout for work-around solutions, mistakes (probably a design error), and surprising events.

If you’re trying to find products/services in your industry or market space, head to the competition’s storefront and walk on in. If you’re lucky you might see a few customers ask questions you hadn’t thought of or try out the product right in front of you. Keep your eye out for mistakes, frustration, and carefully constructed answers from sales people – these are the weaknesses of your competition that you can exploit.

Next, take some time to ask a child a few questions. You’ll be surprised at how differently they view the world. It’s almost as if there are no limitations on their imagination. If they don’t see it today, well there’s no reason it couldn’t exist tomorrow. A roller coaster that takes you from here to there? Why not! An educated city planner or engineer might question the infrastructure and legal requirements for a loop-the-loop. A child will recognize intrinsic needs and idealistic solutions.

We’re all creatures of habit, and we typically see the same bunch of people on a daily basis. Travelling is a fantastic way to ideate – your brain is forced to map new places, you’re using different parts of your brain, and your eyes are opened up to new trends, people, and events that you’re not used to. If a trip to Paris it out of the question, try taking a new route home once in a while. You’ll be amazed at how this simple change in behavior can unleash a horde of neurons, ready to take on a problem.

Remember, that networking isn’t just about career growth – it can also help you discover new ways of thinking. I’m sure you’ve seen it in meetings, the way everyone seems to view situations in different ways. Our behaviors and judgments are largely outcomes of our experiences and personalities which means you can identify all sorts of new ideas just by talking to a new group of people. Don’t just skim the surface though. While the weather may be 90 degrees and a low-pressure front is coming in soon, you can get much more information from others if you start asking emotive questions. Someone tells you about their weekend trip on a boat. Don’t say – “boy, that sun was shining!” You can do better. Ask questions like, “How was that for you?” Once in a while people will grab the hook and tell you all sorts of problems they faced and reasons why things are simply “far too difficult around here.” Take a moment and figure out the root cause of those issues and you’re golden.

Now try it on your own. If you’re having a hard time with this exercise, add a few unnatural constraints – what if we could only sell to customers online? What if our customers HAD to buy our products in person? This type of thinking requires you to shift your mindset and may enable you to imagine new ideas and untapped niches.