Friday, July 13, 2012

Product Management: How to find a right problem

Last time I talked about importance of defining a problem before starting a project.  Today I want to talk about how to find a worthy problem that is right for you.

There are million problems - hence million opportunities - in this world.  World hunger, global warming, Middle East peace, voters' apathy toward politics, health care, ...  the list goes on.  These are all worthy problems.  But they are too big and abstract for most people.

When you look at successful startups in the last couple of decades, there are common patterns in how founders found their problems.  The common pattern is that many started small with solving a problem they had themselves.

Pick a problem that exists in your life.

Another way of saying this is to be your own product's number one customer.  If you are looking to solve a problem for someone else, you are more likely to fail.

If you think about this a bit, reasons are rather obvious.  It's because you have experienced the problem first hand, you are more likely to understand end user's perspective.  Since the problem existed for you, it is more likely that there are other people with similar problem.  In addition, there is a huge bonus of being able to iterate super fast because you are not only the founder but customer who can provide valuable feedback to engineering team - or code it yourself.

Mark Zuckerberg started this way when he started building photo book to share for Harvard dorm room students.  Drew Houston started Dropbox when he realized that he forgot to bring thumb drive with copy of his work, and started building online storage system.  Jerry Yang and David Filo started Yahoo! the same way.

Look no further than your own problems.  Create a solution that you can use yourself.

If you are building hardware solution,
improvise and put together a rapid prototype.

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