Taking risks is at the core of every entrepreneur. It is in their DNA to take a leap of faith, put it all on read, and jump straight in head first.
The challenging thing about being an ‘entrepreneur’ is determining where you should allocate your time, energy and resources to maximise your returns.
Before you invest time in building your solution, how can you give yourself the best possible chance for success? How can you ensure that the solution you are building is actually going to have an impact on the market?
This is the first step that most entrepreneurs take and it tends to make sense. You identify a problem, pain point or gap in the market. You then spend some time thinking about that particular problem and eventually start articulating what a potential solution would look like...
The challenge with this approach is that a lot of assumptions are made throughout the design and creation process. From the start of the project, you’re forced into making assumptions about the market needs, end user needs, product features and project financial viability. And as they say, when you assume, you make an Ass out of U and Me.
So how else could we look at our ideas and innovations to increase our chances of success from the get go?
One of the most important aspects of innovation is finding the fit between your problem and solution. This process is known as the problem-solution fit, and is a unique way of analysing and optimising your ideas. This strategy provides entrepreneurs with true market transparency and understanding before they begin investing heavily into design, development or marketing.
Once you’ve identified your problem and started to articulate your solution, it’s time to dig deep and understand if your solution is a true fit for the problem you are trying to solve. Understanding your problem-solution fit is often more about understanding culture than understanding your problem.
A great example of this is with Netflix when they launched their DVD delivery service in 1997. Despite being one of the largest media companies on the planet in 2022, it took Netflix over 6 years to list their first profits when they launched in the late nineties. One of the leading factors behind this was the culture shift that had to take place in order for their customers to engage with their product (in simple terms the Problem-Solution Fit was unbalanced). In 1997, the culture in our society was to spend 45 minutes on a Friday evening walking around a Blockbuster store. We didn’t want DVDs to be delivered to our door nor did we have the bandwidth to stream movies from our laptops (How times have changed…).
Another example of this is with the launch of Friendster in 2002. It was one of the first Social Media platforms to be released allowing members to connect and share online content. But that platform had one major flaw. In 2002, people weren’t ready to trust their dial-up internet to share and connect with their friends. They would much prefer to pick up their landline or meet for a coffee. Our society wasn’t ready for Friendster, however one can argue that this became the catalyst for Myspace and Facebook's success.
The good news is that there are many ways of validating your problem-solution fit before you jump straight into development. As the saying goes, the numbers don’t lie. Getting true data and information from your potential future users is by far one of the most powerful tools!
In 2017, FC Barcelona (Spanish Football team) was looking at ways to expand their brand and impact on a global scale. One area they wanted to explore was the online education space. They had a wealth of information ranging from Sports Science through to Sport Business. Unsure if their product would have the demand to justify the investment of building an online university they went about researching their problem-solution fit.
Rather than initially building an online education platform and variety of courses, they built 6 different web landing pages. The purpose of the landing pages was to understand a) if there was demand for their product and b) what subject matters were desired from their target audience. Based on this information, they were able to tailor their platform and content to guarantee instant market traction upon their launch. The Barca Innovation Hub launched in 2017 with 6 online courses, they now boast over 30 different courses and provide education to students all over the world!
You’ll see that a Problem-Solution Fit doesn’t define whether your ideas are going to be successful or not. But it does provide you with real-life data for the here and now. One of the biggest challenges innovators face when they launch a product is the cultural resistance it faces in the market-place. By understanding your problem-solution fit, you’ll have further transparency on your target audience. And remember, your solution doesn’t need to fit the problem for now, it just might take a little longer for your business to bear some fruit!