Building a solution is the same thing as solving a problem right? You need to build a solution to solve the problem, there is no way to solve the problem without building a solution!?
At many organizations, product teams are branding themselves as the team who is focused, almost exclusively, on building a solution. They are focusing department goals around building solutions to problems the business has a core competency in solving. This sounds terrific in theory – we are solving a problem by building a solution in a market, we are experts in, while focusing on our competitive advantages. We have taken into consideration our competitors and we have a value prop that is unique differentiated. The real focus needs to be on solving the problem, not building the solution.
The problem comes from the idea that the only way to solve a problem is to “build” a solution. Perhaps you have heard of this example, NASA set out to solve the problem that current pens didn’t work in space. They spent millions to have a pen built that would function in a zero gravity, low temp environment. The Russian cosmonauts on the other hand simply brought pencils and avoided the millions in R&D. Though this story is not actually true, the principle rings true and is very often lost among product managers.
There is a large pressure to find the next billion dollar idea and to build a solution which will solve or up-end a market or solve a problem the world didn’t even know it had! This is a noble feat to undertake, just make sure you are focused on solving the problem and not building a solution. Hulk Hogan endorsed a “solution“, while George Foreman endorsed a product that solved a problem. Homeland Housewares (and others) would later iterate on the Hogan endorsed product, and they actually were able to solve a problem with the new design. The point is, really evaluate a problem and make sure your solution solves the problem, don’t just build a solution – solve the problem.