"The Problem-Solver's Playbook: Unleashing Innovative Thinking and Economic Value"

Aviral Vaid

Aviral Vaid

Aug 11, 20234 min read


"The Problem-Solver's Playbook: Unleashing Innovative Thinking and Economic Value"


In today's fast-paced world, problem-solving is a crucial skill that can make or break a business or product. However, it is essential to approach problem-solving with the right mindset and ask the right questions. In this article, we will explore two different perspectives on problem-solving: sharpening your thinking through questions and understanding the concept of economic value.

1. Multiplying Value vs. Solving Problems:

When it comes to problem-solving, the focus should be on multiplying value rather than merely solving problems. Falling in love with a problem or a solution can limit our ability to think creatively and find innovative solutions. By shifting our mindset towards creating value, we become better problem solvers.

2. Assessing the Impact of a Problem:

Not all problems are created equal. Before diving into solving a problem, it is crucial to assess its impact on customers. Three dimensions to consider are reach, intensity, and user segment. Understanding the number of customers affected, the depth of their pain, and the specific user segment impacted can help prioritize problems effectively.

3. Aligning with Vision and Strategy:

A problem may seem urgent, but it is essential to evaluate whether it aligns with the long-term vision and strategy of the company or product. Strategy involves choosing what not to do, so it is crucial to deprioritize certain problems to focus on those that contribute to the overall vision.

4. The Cost of Delay:

Thinking about the cost of delay or the cost of doing nothing is a powerful exercise. Some problems require immediate attention, similar to a fire that needs immediate extinguishing. Others may be more like a leaking roof, gradually worsening until the entire structure collapses. Understanding the urgency of a problem helps in effective decision-making.

5. Thinking Beyond Product Usability:

The Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework encourages product managers to think beyond product usability problems. Understanding the customer's job-to-be-done, their ultimate goal or objective, helps in designing solutions that address their broader needs.

6. Building a Deeper Moat:

To create a competitive advantage, it is crucial to build a deeper moat around your product. One effective way is to create network effects, where the value of the product increases with the number of people using it. This not only strengthens the product's position but also creates barriers for potential disruptors.

7. Disrupting Your Own Product:

Innovation is not limited to external disruptors; companies should constantly disrupt their own products. Anticipating how a new hotshot founder would pitch their product to disrupt the industry can help identify areas for improvement and innovation.

8. Driving Solution Discovery Process:

While a product manager should involve various stakeholders in the solution discovery process, they should still take the lead. By amassing the expertise of engineers, designers, data scientists, and stakeholders, a PM can drive the discovery of innovative solutions.

9. Assessing Appetite to Solve a Problem:

Not all problems are worth solving. Evaluating the appetite of the company or team to solve a problem is crucial. Limited resources and constraints may require prioritization, where some problems may need to be deprioritized or even left unsolved.

10. Feasibility of Solutions:

A good solution is one that is desirable to users, viable for the business, and feasible to build with the available resources and constraints. Evaluating the feasibility of solutions ensures that efforts are directed towards impactful solutions.

11. Identifying the Point of Diminishing Return:

Every solution has a point of diminishing return, where investing more resources or effort does not yield significant benefits. Identifying this point helps in making informed decisions and optimizing resources.

12. The Red Team Exercise:

The Red Team exercise involves looking at a solution as if you were the enemy, biggest critic, or competitor. This exercise helps identify potential flaws, weaknesses, and challenges in the solution and encourages critical thinking.

13. De-Risking Assumptions:

Every solution is built on assumptions, and identifying the riskiest assumptions is crucial. De-risking these assumptions through research, testing, and validation improves the chances of success.

14. Delivering Value in Chunks:

Instead of waiting for a perfect solution, delivering value in smaller chunks can be more effective. The time lag between research and launching can lead to changes in requirements, trends, and user appetite, making incremental value delivery beneficial.

15. Evaluating Personal Capabilities:

Lastly, it is essential to assess whether you are the best person to solve a problem. Recognizing personal strengths and limitations allows for better collaboration and ensures that the right expertise is brought to the table.


Problem-solving requires a holistic approach that considers different perspectives and challenges traditional thinking. By asking the right questions, understanding economic value, and embracing innovation, one can become a more effective problem solver. Remember, it's not just about solving problems; it's about multiplying value.

Actionable Advice:

1. Prioritize problems based on their impact and alignment with long-term vision and strategy.

2. Challenge your solutions through the Red Team exercise and de-risk assumptions.

3. Deliver value incrementally and continuously, rather than waiting for a perfect solution.

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