Solutions will fail you. Problems won't.

Feb 29, 2020

A typical pattern you'll find in folks, in the digital product space, is immaculate focus on solutions. In comparison, only 10% of the time invested in the identification of a specific problem area.

People love talking about ideas, new features, and shiny objects. They hardly force themselves to get to the core problem area. This leads to extensive discussions around solutions with no apparent success metrics.

This solution led "problem-solving" leads to:
• Mask solutions or ideas as the new problem statement. E.g., we need this new feature.
• Tens of hours of discussions on design vs. testing with real users and validating.
• "Potential next billion dollar" idea based product roadmap vs. real problems users face today.
• Never-ending product ideation, design vs. releasing MVP and iterating.

Guess what, if all were so brilliant at solutions, it'd already been a billion-dollar company. But it isn't, right?

Startup dollars are valuable. Startup time is valuable. Use it to identify, narrow to a specific problem statement. A well-formed problem statement will not fail you.

A few years ago, my team was working on re-design the checkout flow. Specifically, the payment mode selection page. The problem statement started with the integration of bank and other gateway offers along with the addition of a few new modes. The team (including me) jumped on this. Great opportunity to re-design a page that didn't get the design love for years, one would think, right?

WRONG!

We missed one big thing until a few weeks into the project. We did not narrow down to the core problem enough to have our foundational guiding line to re-design.

The purpose of this screen was to increase online payment and the least % of abandonment. Including a bunch of new offers were levers to achieve that.

We were on our way to make it live; but, we did not. We finally shipped a design that took a few hours of development effort. The solution was simply to change the amber color of an insurance message to red color in case one would not select a business preferred option. The messaging always remained the same -- indicating that insurance was not applicable for cash payments but we never looked at the color of the text. So, instead of changing the entire design, we changed a hex code. It almost doubled our online payment in less than a week.