Find Market Problems Worth Solving

42 Rules of Product Management The following article by Brainmates co-director Nick Coster, is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Product Management.


Visioning allows the product manager to see beyond what is currently considered possible and to start to think of completely new possibilities.


A lot of people come up with new ideas all the time. Unfortunately, most of these ideas never make it to market because the underlying problem has not been clearly thought out and communicated. It may seem obvious that we would want to understand a potential problem before launching a product to solve it. Sadly, the reality is quite different.

A better approach is to invest time to clearly describe the problem you have identified and then imagine a world where it has been solved. Observe your target market trying to complete tasks and ask yourself ridiculous questions that smash the limits of their current expectations.

Find Market Problems Worth Solving
This is often the hardest part of our job. We can get so close to our products that we no longer have the wide view to see market problems that are bigger than problems that are currently being addressed. Instead, we see the world through our products and often add new features to further enhance solutions to problems that have already been adequately solved. For a product manager, it is not the value of the technology that will add value to the business, it is the value of solving the market problem.

How do we find market problems worth solving? Watch people. See what they do and what frus- trates them, wastes their time or money, or otherwise prevents them from completing a task that they are trying to perform. Listen to see if this is a pain point for other people.

James Dyson, for example, observed that vacuums were constantly getting clogged with dust and were losing suction. This was a problem for anyone wanting to quickly and effectively clean their house. After over five thousand failed attempts, he created the Dyson vacuum cleaner-a bagless vacuum that doesn’t lose suction as it picks up dust.

Describe the pain point that you find, tell a story about it, and describe the specific target market “persona,” then step them through the way that they currently try to complete their task. It should be as specific as possible and highlight the impact of their current “solution” in these current usage scenarios.

Imagine a world where the problem has already been solved.
This is the core of most good science fiction. Take a problem that has been solved by some advanced technology and explore the resulting world or environment.

Apply the usage scenario where the pain point was identified and imagine the experience where it has been removed. What is that worth to the target market? Does it create a valuable change in these people’s lives? If it does, then there may be merit in actually finding a solution to the problem.

Don’t be discouraged if the solution seems impossible.
Most of the products that we use trivially today have been considered impossible at some stage in the past. You may need to sell the vision to stakeholders to get their commitment. If the vision is clear enough, you will find people who want to work with you rather than tell you what can’t be done.

The benefit however of knowing that you have a valuable problem that is worth solving is that any effort that you do direct towards creating something new will have a clear market when it is solved and will minimize wasted effort.

Solving problems like this will create new value for the customer, make it difficult for the competition to catch up and create financial opportunities for the business.

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