All startups are built on the idea of solving a problem. The founders seem to be where that problem which they endeavor to solve, was. They were affected by the problem and they were sensitive enough to see that others were too. They were motivated enough to solve it for themselves and then make the solution available for others. They build application or software to execute the solution. These solutions seem to work for a while, it gathers traction but then they fail after operating for some time in the market.
Despite the application and software being built on the core principle of human-centered design(HCD), they fail. This human-centered approach means that the product arises from a human need/problem. I make it sound like it is very essential for the product to arise from a real human need and I assure you, it’s the truth. When the application is built, it begins to solve that problem. But when one major, conspicuous problem is solved, that’s not the end for the founder or the application. It’s only a small win, a major part of the iceberg still hides below the water which only rises as the tip melts away.
The people who started using this application to solve their problem soon get used to the solution and discover more problems which fringe this major problem (the tip of iceberg). If the initial solution was built around a human need then why doesn’t it grow as the need grows. The applications do not stick to being human-centered rather the founders get ambitious as they grow. They do not complete the circle of HCD. The whole deal around getting funded and expansion and scaling up and building bigger offices diverts them from their humble beginning which was to solve a problem. They stop being connected the why this product was built and start thinking of expansion and funding and what not — the real problem to be solved gets left behind.
Example: For an ecommerce platform the initial problem may be to make shopping as easy as clicking a button without a hassle of going to the actual marketplace and interacting with 10 different vendors to bring the product home. Once people started solving this problem they may stumble upon many others like, payment methods, return of products, getting product on time…once these are solved there may be many more. The idea is be close to the humans for whom the problems is being solved and to be abreast with those problems to make the application or platform keep solving problems for them. If the problem solving stops, the life of the product begins to come to an end.
While the focus of the product is shifting away from the problem, people are retracting their belief from it because it doesn’t fit their ever expanding need anymore. That’s why it’s imperative to keep exploring the problem even if the companies grow bigger; growing big opens opportunity to explore the problem in highly nuanced fashion, more research, more pain points, more design challenges for you to solve. It needs persistence. Solving one problem was never a means to an end, it meant find other problems around that main problem so that the customer experience got better and better. All the failed applications show that their innovation scheme was short sighted because they solved one problem and failed to keep up. This innovation comes from progressive problem finding.
When you’ve figured out who you’re solving the problem for, stick with that person till they are a believer of your solution. This can happen if at every point you figured out what they needed and gave it to them. They smiled every time they were served but with each smile they become better devotees.
Example: it’s a bit strange but very relevant example which is of Ramit Sethi, he is an excellent example of finding problems progressively. His core business is based on the idea of helping people get rich. He keeps finding new ways to help these people. In the long run he sticks with and really understands the people his solution is built for. Whenever they grow out of a solution and ask for more, he gives it to them.
No solution is sustainable by the virtue of its being. The solution starts degrading because new needs and problems arise. For a successful and a longer product journey learn more about the problem and keep finding solutions(and problems) and make it for real humans with real needs. This can be done by a design team with a good research capability. This can be done by the designers and founders who really empathize and listen closely to their customers.