Perhaps it’s human nature, but people don’t seem to like to talk about problems. Problems are downers. It feels icky to talk about problems. Nobody likes a complainer.
On the other hand, talking about solutions feels good. You may have heard the management saying: “Don’t bring me problems. Bring me solutions.” Offering solutions means we’re contributing. We’re useful. We’re helping.
We run into this in our work all the time. Whether it’s clients, developers, marketers, product owners, or UXers like me, everyone comes to the table anxious to suggest a fix. Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a website or app or a brand looking to redefine itself; it’s almost universally too easy to jump right in to fixing things.
So, is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, but the risk is this: if you don’t really know what problem you’re solving, you’re less likely to come up with the best way to fix it. In some cases, if you apply the wrong solution, you could even make it worse.
There’s an old design saying: “Great designers don’t fall in love with the solution. Great designers fall in love with the problem.” It’s not just good advice for designers.
No matter your role on a project or in an organization, falling in love with the problem means allowing your solutions to be wrong. It means any potential course, regardless of how passionately you believe in it, doesn’t mean squat until you can confirm it addresses the real issue that’s affecting real people. Our ideas are not precious. The problem is.
If the inherent risk in spending time and budget to build something that doesn’t actually meet user needs isn’t enough, here are five additional benefits:
Well, one tactic is to just...start. Challenge your team when they begin by offering solutions. A good question to have on hand is, "What problem are we solving with that? And how do we know that's really a problem our users are having?" If nobody has a good answer, it's probably worth taking a step back. Talk is cheap. Ill-advised development is expensive.
Interested in knowing more? Stay tuned for a follow-up post where we'll go into a bit more detail, covering actionable ways you and your team can become more problem-focused, and reveal better solutions that will better serve your customers, your business, and your brand.