Most of us in the startup world have heard the phrase “fall in love with the problem, not the solution”, but what does “falling in love with the problem” really mean? As founders, how does it make sense to love the problems when all we want is to build the solutions?

In this blog, we’ll help you discover the meaning and essence of loving the problem.

Naturally, we want answers to our questions. As soon as we feel that we’ve arrived at an ideal answer to our question, we stop thinking and ideating about the question and get trapped by the answer. In a startup problem-solution context, this can be destructive as our first idea is rarely the best solution to a problem. It gets even worse when we go deep into building a solution without having formed both a factual and contextual understanding of the problem itself.  Let’s break these thoughts down.

First, what is loving the problem?

Loving the problem means that you are obsessed with understanding the problem – the main trigger point to the obsession of solving it. Loving the problem also enables you to go deep into that problem, which ultimately requires going deep into the domain where this problem exists. By domain, we mean the industry vertical you’re solving the problem in. Each domain will have its unique problem sets and so good problem solving without an understanding of the domain is, simply put, counterproductive.

Next, what does it mean to form a contextual understanding of the problem?

Factual understanding is simple and most often a surface level understanding of the problem. For instance, factually Uber identified problems in the traditional cab system on scale and wanted to digitise it. In its contextual understanding on the other hand, they identified that both riders and drivers need fast connectivity with ease of use. They made it possible by going deeper into this domain and understood the need to establish trust among riders and drivers. With their solution, they not only gave riders accountability, customer service and ease of payment, they also gave drivers a choice through a two-way rating system and information about the areas on the route. This is why there are many great ideas but fewer great startups. Contextual understanding requires understanding the nuances of your problem and domain as well as tying these nuances in with macro factors. This lets startups form a holistic understanding of the problem as well as the best way in which the problem can be solved.

Say there is a problem you are solving. While remaining in the factual realm, your solution will not go beyond solving 50% of the problem. Contextual understanding is the only way to achieve the latter 50%. This graduation from factual to contextual understanding is fuel to a true problem solver’s mind. It brings you into a zone where your subconscious mind is absorbed in the problem – this is where “Eureka Moments” happen.

In this zone, you graduate from problem solving in a scientific manner to problem solving in both a scientific and an artistic manner. You begin connecting the dots. 

This is how you build a Eureka Generating Machine

If we look at eureka generation in a more process oriented manner, the key components of this process are shown below. We’ve talked about intelligent grit in our previous blogs as a defining trait of good founders – one contributor to a founder’s grit is loving the problem and being obsessed with the solution. When combined with intelligence, this is where the magic happens. So intelligence leading to passion, passion leading to hard work.

The more intense these components are, the more eureka moments a founder will have. And the more these eureka moments, the stronger your game plan and the better your solution. Good startup founders all have these ingredients as they go through the structured process of focusing on the problem and finding the best solutions through continuous experimentation and iteration.

Not only is this process necessary to build a great company but investors are particularly great at identifying founders that repeatedly produce eureka moments; these are the founders they invest in. At ScaleX, we work with founders to help them build this Eureka Generating Machine and then to be able to repeat it as they move through different stages of their startup cycle.

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