The Art of Defining Problems
And the definition of a product
A product is a solution to a problem. One common problem is getting to a new destination. A car can solve this problem. A car is a product. A car can get you from A to B. In fact, every problem might be deduced to getting to Point B.
Problem → someone wants to be somewhere else.
Product → gets them somewhere else.
Someone wants to be somewhere else.
The product gets them there.
Sounds simple. What’s the rub?
Simple ain’t easy. The problem is, someone wants to be somewhere else. They want to be in another state, somewhere different than they are now, or having solved something. They want to get from Point A, to Point B. So what’s the rub? It’s hard to define problems. What’s worse: we rarely get it right when we do.
We’ve defined a product
A product solves a problem. A product is fixed. A spatula is a product.
A product has characteristics and features.
It can be pointed to or looked at.
Defining problems is hard
Problems are the space between where someone is, and their ideal end goal (Point B). Before you ask what the ideal end goal is. You can ask…
Who has the problem?
Is it a retired hedge fund manager?
Is it commuting businesspeople?
Is it parents taking kids to school?
Who has the problem is important, and will influence both the starting point (A) and the end goal (B).
The exact destination (Point B), and how it’s defined, will influence the problem definition and ultimately the solution (the product).
Once we’ve defined Point B for a person—or a specific group of people—we can ask…
Why no arrival?
What’s stopping you?
What’s slowing you down?
What do you need to get to Point B?
The answers to these questions get added to the problem space, and the problem definition starts to form. The problem is the difference between where they are now, and where they’re trying to go. No problem is ever perfectly defined. We might miss something, or get something wrong. But once we’ve defined this particular problem, a solution can start to shape.
The solution becomes the product. Whether it’s a physical object, an app, or a complex mechanical machine. Products are easy to define, problems are hard.
If you want a tactical guide to solving problems—without fever dream illustrations—I might suggest The Journey Design Process.
This article uses AI-generated images.
This newsletter is free. You can support the work by subscribing or sharing with friends.