finding a problem to solve
A common framework to plan and evaluate ideas for companies is to analyze them through a problem-solution cycle . Therefore, the best approach is to start by searching problems. One of the advantages of starting with the problem, is that we can very easily determine whether we have any form of empathy towards it. For example, if the protecting the environment is a cause you relate to, you will probably feel more affinity towards problems such as how to replace plastic cups from coffee stores , than how to create a community of coffee drinkers .
There are many successful companies that started by solving a very specific problem someone experienced. For example, Ring 1 is a company that builds electronic doorbells. It all started when its founder, Jamie Siminoff realized that while working in his garage he could not listen if someone was ringing at his door. He built a small prototype and realized that others also had the same problem. More importantly, he later found that other problems that can be solved with his product.
The example of Ring showcases a perfect example of how the problem-solution-iteration cycle works in practice. However, to identify problems you need to change your mental model in order to be mindful when they appear. In our daily lives, we are surrounded by problems, just that we filter them out just to have a more pleasant daily experience.
For example, when I go to the supermarket I tend to forget to buy important things, such as milk. This is a problem because it forces me to either go again to the supermarket or to limit my breakfast choices the next morning. Another problem that I often encounter is that shirts end up with stains under the armpits. The stains are an aesthetic problem, and also shortens the lifespan of my clothes.
Now we have two problems coming from our daily lives at home. You can apply the same thinking process to your work environment. For example, you are in a coworking space, or in a multi-tenant building, and you realize people is throwing garbage in the wrong bins because they are not properly labeled.
Problems are not necessarily linked to personal experiences
A common misconception is that the problem must be triggered by out daily experiences. This is highly limiting and won't really allow us to think outside the box. Sometimes problems are issues at a global scale, such as the presence of plastic in the ocean