When it comes to problem-solving, it's important to approach the task with the right mindset. In "The problem-solver's playbook: 17 questions to sharpen your thinking," the article emphasizes the importance of not falling in love with the problem or the solution. Instead, the focus should be on multiplying value rather than simply solving problems.

Aviral Vaid

Aviral Vaid

Feb 08, 20245 min read

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When it comes to problem-solving, it's important to approach the task with the right mindset. In "The problem-solver's playbook: 17 questions to sharpen your thinking," the article emphasizes the importance of not falling in love with the problem or the solution. Instead, the focus should be on multiplying value rather than simply solving problems.

The first question raised in the article is whether the problem at hand is merely a symptom of a bigger problem. This prompts us to dig deeper and uncover the root cause, rather than just addressing the surface-level issue. By doing so, we can ensure that we are truly solving the problem and not just putting a band-aid on it.

Another crucial aspect to consider is the impact of the problem on customers. The article suggests assessing the reach, intensity, and user segment affected by the problem. This allows us to understand the scale of the issue and prioritize accordingly. After all, companies exist to serve customers' needs and make a profit, so it's essential to align our efforts with their best interests.

In order to effectively prioritize and allocate resources, it's important to evaluate whether solving the problem aligns with the long-term vision and strategy of the company or product. This requires us to make strategic choices and determine what we need to deprioritize in order to address the problem at hand. Thinking about the cost of delay or the cost of doing nothing can help us understand the urgency and potential consequences of inaction.

Considering the potential outcomes of doing nothing is a powerful exercise. Some problems require immediate action, like a fire that needs to be put out before it spreads. Others may be more gradual, like a leaking roof that worsens over time. Understanding the consequences of inaction can help us make informed decisions and avoid future crises.

It's also important to consider the customer's job-to-be-done. The Jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) framework encourages us to think beyond product usability problems and understand the broader goals and objectives of our customers. For example, when a user flies from London to Dublin, their goal is not simply to ride a plane, but to meet their colleagues. By understanding the customer's true job-to-be-done, we can create a more valuable and meaningful solution.

Building a deeper moat for our product is another important consideration. One effective way to do this is by creating network effects, where the value of the product increases as more people use it. This can help us establish a competitive advantage and make it harder for new entrants to disrupt our industry.

However, it's also crucial to disrupt our own product before someone else does. By constantly challenging ourselves and looking for ways to improve, we can stay ahead of the game and avoid becoming irrelevant. This requires us to constantly evaluate potential future situations that could make our product obsolete and take proactive steps to address them.

The article also highlights the importance of involving a diverse team in the solution discovery process. By bringing together experts from different backgrounds, such as engineers, designers, data scientists, and stakeholders, we can leverage their expertise and insights to drive innovation and find the best possible solution.

Feasibility is another key consideration. A good solution must not only be desirable for users and viable for the business but also feasible to build with the available resources and constraints. It's important to assess what is realistically achievable and avoid setting ourselves up for failure.

Understanding the point of diminishing returns is also crucial. There comes a time when investing additional resources in solving a problem no longer yields significant returns. Identifying this point allows us to allocate our resources more efficiently and focus on areas that will have a greater impact.

To ensure the robustness of our solution, it's important to adopt a critical mindset. The article suggests employing the "Red Team" approach, where we view our solution as if we were the enemy, biggest critic, or competitor. This exercise helps us identify potential weaknesses and challenges us to address them proactively.

Risk assessment is another important aspect of problem-solving. We need to identify the riskiest assumptions we have and find ways to de-risk them. By addressing potential pitfalls and uncertainties, we can increase the chances of success and avoid costly mistakes.

Lastly, it's important to consider the smallest chunk of value we can deliver. Rather than waiting for a perfect solution, it's often more effective to deliver incremental value over time. This allows us to gather feedback, iterate, and make improvements along the way. The longer the time lag between research and launching, the higher the chances of changes in requirements, trends, and customer appetite.

Before concluding, let's reflect on three actionable pieces of advice that we can take away from this article:

  • 1. Always dig deeper: When faced with a problem, don't settle for surface-level solutions. Take the time to understand the root cause and address it directly.
  • 2. Prioritize customer impact: Consider the reach, intensity, and user segment affected by the problem. Align your efforts with the needs of your customers to create maximum value.
  • 3. Embrace disruption: Don't wait for someone else to disrupt your industry. Constantly challenge yourself and your product to stay ahead of the game and avoid becoming irrelevant.

In conclusion, problem-solving requires a strategic and holistic approach. By asking the right questions and considering various factors, we can sharpen our thinking and become more effective problem solvers. So, let's put the problem-solver's playbook into action and tackle challenges with a fresh perspective.

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