Solving Problems is All That Matters

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    Solving problems and meeting current needs and objectives are the only things that matter…regardless of what is possible in the future.

    It is easy for those of us who work on forward looking strategy to become enamored of what is possible, to see a cool vision of a future state that works better. But thinking about how to apply some of my takeaways from SXSW recently made this concept, that real tangible results are the key things that matter, really come together for me.

    In an era when lots of things are possible, it is even more important than ever to focus scarce time and resources on those projects that help move the ball down the field to the goal line, whatever goal that is for your business, organization, or project. Because of this, it is imperative to tie efforts that use new approaches or technology to delivering a solution for current issues and not just for future possibilities.

    This is equally true for startups with new products as it is for big companies using new technology or processes. The Lean Startup and Customer Development movements, which are revolutionizing the way startups come to market, hold valuable lessons for anyone who works on anything “new”, including those in large companies. The key concepts are that learning quickly what really works is of core importance and bringing a Minimum Viable Product to real potential customers yields a faster brush with reality about the real demand in store for your idea.

    What’s possible is great but support and adoption come from those current needs. This is the difference between people liking your idea and needing your product/service today, or between thinking your project sounds great for the future and acting now to allocate funding and resources. Part of this is people’s focus but the other part is their capability to understand. Put something in the context that is real to them – “we can reduce time to market with product X” – and it resonates more than a possible abstract benefit – “people will feel more connected to their team.”

    John Hagel talks about how change is more likely to be driven by threats than opportunities. Beyond the fear response being stronger than the interested response, I think this also likely comes from threats being concrete and related to today’s reality. What’s possible is in the future. What’s an urgent threat is in the present or at least near term.

    So at the end of the day, how do we get to what is possible? I’d argue the most effective path is via solving for current needs and communicating the benefits of applying forward looking approaches or technology to meeting those current needs. Each time we take such a step, we lay the foundation for what is possible and one day people will wake up to find themselves there having traversed a set of steps that each solved a real concrete issue.

    Image by Tomasz Stasiuk

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