How do you build a better product?

More importantly, how is “better” defined?

Problem-solving is challenging because the innovator needs to understand what improvements are required before a better product can be built.

A snippet from Ash Maurya’s session during the Innov8rs Connect Unconference, June-September 2020. To watch the full session recording, join Innov8rs Community with a Content or Premium Pass.

Start With The Problem

Starting with a solution is like building a key without a door. One step to building a better product is embracing problems before developing solutions. Instead of simply making a product “better,” identify whether it needs to be faster, more efficient, more user-friendly, or another characteristic in which the current product is failing.

Love your problem, not the solution. Innovators tend to see a problem and quickly gravitate to a solution. Statistically, however, most solutions fall flat because there is not a complete understanding of the problem. The innovator rushes straight up the pyramid to the solution world, not devoting sufficient time to understanding the problem. Time is spent getting funding and building a product that might not address the issue.

The Customer Doesn’t Know What They Want

A customer cannot successfully identify their need. As Steve Jobs once said, “It is not the customer’s job to know what they want.” Customers do not serve up problem statements but instead focus on solutions statements and feature requests.

Traditionally, customers do not introspectively understand the root cause or are not innovators capable of providing a solution.
Think about taxis. If you had asked customers what is broken with taxis ten or twenty years ago, they would have complaints and suggestions, but the idea that a customer would propose a rideshare solution is unlikely. Instead, you need to aggregate data about problems, identify which problems are a priority, and have a group of innovators pose solutions, not just resolutions.

Talking About Problems Is Hard

It takes skill and practice to talk about problems in a way that initiates results. In the corporate world, innovators tend to be more protective and defensive of problems. Corporate leaders are only likely to open up if they know you, like you, and trust you.

You can’t approach a leader and say, “You are doing innovation all wrong; here are all your organization’s problems.” You will be viewed as aggressive, and no one will be open to listening to your suggestions. People’s first reaction is to react negatively to feedback on problems.

Only when you get to the heart of the problem can you create a solution built to address the problem.

The art is to uncover issues without running into the pitfalls that come with discussing problems. The result is building a better product.


This is a piece from The Innovator’s Handbook 2021. If you’re keen to dive into the best and latest on corporate innovation, request your copy here. To discuss anything Business Design join our upcoming Innov8rs Connect online event, 7-11 December.

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