Do you want a simple (though not easy) way to innovate and create a competitive advantage, as an individual or organization? If so, the answer may lie in changing the type of problems you are trying to solve…
I was listening to a podcast with Seth Godin and he said something that struck a chord with me. To paraphrase:
“Solve an interesting problem. One that you can not just Google the answer to.”
His talk was geared more towards entrepreneurs and business people, but I believe anyone can benefit from it.
What he is saying is that in connected world where answers to so many things are right at your fingertips (literally, now that everyone has a smartphone), the only way to differentiate yourself and really add value is to solve problems that don’t currently have an easy solution.
If you are a business owner, entrepreneur, solo practitioner, or are in charge in any way of growing a business, ask yourself, “What problem do my customers have that does not currently have a solution?” Solve it.
If you work for a company, ask yourself, “What problem do I struggle with on a regular basis that doesn’t currently have a solution?” (This could be a limitation, inefficiency, or something stopping you from doing what you would really like to do). Solve it.
In your personal life, ask yourself, “What is frustrating me these days that I don’t currently know what to about?” Solve it.
My Past Story, My Present Story
A few years ago, my speaking business was doing ok – not great, not even good, just “ok.” I realized that in order for me to stay in business, much less have the business and life I wanted, I needed to make a change.
So what did I do? I solved an interesting problem. I may not have used those words at the time, but’s that what I did.
My interesting problem was, “how can I perform the best, most entertaining improv comedy games without any partners?”
You see, improv is a group activity. In my experience, most of the games that were the funniest, highest energy, and biggest crowd pleasers were ones that required me to have one or more experienced improvisers as partners.
I tried Google and research but couldn’t really find anyone doing what I wanted (and knew I needed) to do.
So what did I do? I solved it.
I spent a lot of time, energy, and creativity thinking up ideas and testing them out. Eventually I found the right combo of exercises that the crowd loved and that I could play with audience volunteers with no improv experience.
I can track the success and growth of my business back to the first presentation I gave where I had successfully “solved” that problem.
Things have been going well – good, on the way to great – and I am happy.
However, I realized that I have stopped trying to solve an interesting problem. You know what means?
And complacency is a killer of businesses.
Now I am revisiting the idea of “solving an interesting problem.” I have two in mind that, once I solve, should take my business to the next level in terms of profit reach, and fun.
The Challenge with Solving an Interesting Problem
“Solving an interesting problem,” sounds great (and it is) but there are some very real challenges that stop people from doing this:
- It’s Hard! – Look, if there was an easy solution to this problem, it would already exist and you wouldn’t be struggling with this. This means you will have to work hard – and probably fail quite a bit – before you solve it.
- There’s No Timeline – This sort of creative problem solving doesn’t adhere to a schedule. It can be very frustrating to continuously work on a problem when the end isn’t in site (even if it happens to be right around the corner).
- You May Not see the Problem/Opportunity – Sometimes we get so used to a constraint or limitation that we take it for granted and assume “that’s just the way it is.”
It’s Worth It
Yes, there are challenges, but it is worth it because in the end, you only need to succeed once in a while.
One solution can drastically improve your business, relationships, productivity, career, stress level, or enjoyment of life.
Now it’s your turn. What interesting problem can you solve?
If you are stuck, use my I.C.E. innovation process:
I – Identify: Identify the problem. Think of what frustrates you, what you wish was different, or what obstacles you face in achieving what you want (in business, work, or life).
C – Create: Create a list of potential solutions. This will not be a one-time process. You will have to work at it and keep generating. Be willing to express and explore the really dumb and crazy ideas you come up with.
E – Experiment: You’ll really have no idea whether your idea will work until you try it. Take one of your potential solutions and give it a go. Then see what happens, analyze the results, make an adjustment, and try again.
Repeat as necessary until you have gotten to where you want to go.
Do you want Avish’s help in getting out of a rut by innovating on a personal or professional issue? Contact him now to discuss how he can help you with one-on-one consulting options.