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"Problems to solve" are everywhere. ...so is there a way to efficiently research this?

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Fr33zerPop

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Jan 14, 2020
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Portland, Oregon, USA
I just had coffee with a mentor, who encouraged me to stop mistakenly brainstorming "solutions looking for a problem" based on my skill-set.
Rather, he suggested that I need to find the problems that need solving. Sounds like sage advice, but I'm at a bit of a conundrum:
How do I focus and target my "What problems are you facing?" questions to the world, without prescriptively targeting the niches I think I can solve with my current skill-set, which then really sound more like, "I have this solution, do you have this problem?"
Any advice on how and where to get "problems to solve" ideas that will get my creative juices flowing without just bopping around pinging people and industries randomly?

I'm finding it very difficult to be systematic in my searching without projecting my (vastly limited) idea of the potential solution.
Any methods for this?

Thanks for the ideas.
 

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itizjr

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I just had coffee with a mentor, who encouraged me to stop mistakenly brainstorming "solutions looking for a problem" based on my skill-set.
Rather, he suggested that I need to find the problems that need solving. Sounds like sage advice, but I'm at a bit of a conundrum:
How do I focus and target my "What problems are you facing?" questions to the world, without prescriptively targeting the niches I think I can solve with my current skill-set, which then really sound more like, "I have this solution, do you have this problem?"
Any advice on how and where to get "problems to solve" ideas that will get my creative juices flowing without just bopping around pinging people and industries randomly?

I'm finding it very difficult to be systematic in my searching without projecting my (vastly limited) idea of the potential solution.
Any methods for this?

Thanks for the ideas.
You're thinking of problems you can solve. Stop thinking you can solve them and just think of all kinds of problems. It doesn't matter if you don't have the solution right now. Find the problem first, and then try to come up with a solution.
 

PizzaOnTheRoof

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It’s hard I know. It’s not easy thinking of problems as they stand on the spot.

I think a better way to look at it is this:

Instead of trying to find entire problems, try to reduce friction.

What’s a product/service that you use/have used that you could make more frictionless? Easier? Simpler? Faster?

Here’s a freebie. Feel free to run with it. If you don’t I might ;)

Example: It’s kind of a pain to wash my car. I have to get a bucket, soap, water, and find the sponge that’s lost somewhere in my garage.

How can we make this a more frictionless process? Let’s combine the soap and the sponge, and create a new product: A sponge with soap built in.

Now all I need are a water hose and the new product.

Don’t worry about price. Sell the value and convenience not the cost.

Washing the car was never a life halting problem, but our new product just makes it that much easier, simpler, and faster.
 
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Fr33zerPop

Fr33zerPop

New Contributor
Jan 14, 2020
14
17
15
Portland, Oregon, USA
It’s hard I know. It’s not easy thinking of problems as they stand on the spot.

I think a better way to look at it is this:

Instead of trying to find entire problems, try to reduce friction.

What’s a product/service that you use/have used that you could make more frictionless? Easier? Simpler? Faster?

Here’s a freebie. Feel free to run with it. If you don’t I might ;)

Example: It’s kind of a pain to wash my car. I have to get a bucket, soap, water, and find the sponge that’s lost somewhere in my garage.

How can we make this a more frictionless process? Let’s combine the soap and the sponge, and create a new product: A sponge with soap built in.

Now all I need are a water hose and the new product.

Don’t worry about price. Sell the value and convenience not the cost.

Washing the car was never a life halting problem, but our new product just makes it that much easier, simpler, and faster.
Thanks. That's a good way to look at it. It also makes me realize these brainstorming platforms as well:
-- There are often solutions for one market that can easily be adapted to another, sometimes with little more than branding. (which honestly, is a little annoying) (e.g. pink razors--uh, 'cause that makes them for women)
-- One market's waste could be another's product (remember 'Tato Skins?)
 
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Fr33zerPop

Fr33zerPop

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Jan 14, 2020
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Portland, Oregon, USA
Working to solve my own problem (and inspired by PizzaOnTheRoof), here's a brainstorming activity I'm going to do:
Take any product/service that I find interesting and ask myself, "What does this product look like when transformed for..." (kindof a "who, what, where, when, why, how activity)
-- A different audience (e.g. Kid's version of a screwdriver... Cat's version of a ping pong ball...)
-- A different location (e.g. Sand toy... snow toy)
-- A different budget (e.g. Economy version of a...)
-- A different time (e.g. If I eat it for breakfast, it's a muffin...)
-- A different function (e.g. copper insulation becomes a pool noodle!)
-- A different shape, size, color, material
-- A reclaimed waste

Please help me out with any other inspiration springboards!
 

Michael Raphael

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Working to solve my own problem (and inspired by PizzaOnTheRoof), here's a brainstorming activity I'm going to do:
Take any product/service that I find interesting and ask myself, "What does this product look like when transformed for..." (kindof a "who, what, where, when, why, how activity)
-- A different audience (e.g. Kid's version of a screwdriver... Cat's version of a ping pong ball...)
-- A different location (e.g. Sand toy... snow toy)
-- A different budget (e.g. Economy version of a...)
-- A different time (e.g. If I eat it for breakfast, it's a muffin...)
-- A different function (e.g. copper insulation becomes a pool noodle!)
-- A different shape, size, color, material
-- A reclaimed waste

Please help me out with any other inspiration springboards!
Great ideas, but instead of asking yourself, why not ask others. Ask your grandparents or parents, ask a child, ask whomever. That way you can see how a product interacts with "time" of the user. You may even find a different solution by doing just that.

A woman with a newborn vs teens vs grandma.
 

PizzaOnTheRoof

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Another great place to search for SaaS ideas is support forums of bigger software companies. They are ripe with unanswered questions and pain points.
 
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Fr33zerPop

Fr33zerPop

New Contributor
Jan 14, 2020
14
17
15
Portland, Oregon, USA
Working to solve my own problem (and inspired by PizzaOnTheRoof), here's a brainstorming activity I'm going to do:
Take any product/service that I find interesting and ask myself, "What does this product look like when transformed for..." (kindof a "who, what, where, when, why, how activity)
-- A different audience (e.g. Kid's version of a screwdriver... Cat's version of a ping pong ball...)
-- A different location (e.g. Sand toy... snow toy)
-- A different budget (e.g. Economy version of a...)
-- A different time (e.g. If I eat it for breakfast, it's a muffin...)
-- A different function (e.g. copper insulation becomes a pool noodle!)
-- A different shape, size, color, material
-- A reclaimed waste

Please help me out with any other inspiration springboards!
I just realized that these are fun idea generators for new products and innovations, but are completely opposite of my stated goal. They're all still solutions looking for problems!
 

GravyBoat

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This is a mindset you just grow into the longer you're on this path.

The longer you go, the more problems you see. In anything.

I'd pick something with some sort of barrier (niche) that not everyone has access to. What do you do in your day job or work that not many other people would understand? Is there a big enough market you could help?
 

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ZF Lee

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Another great place to search for SaaS ideas is support forums of bigger software companies. They are ripe with unanswered questions and pain points.
And on that fine note, never, ever use Microsoft Excel 360.

Was F*cking hell to find I couldn't do simple things like break paragraphs within cells, or use 'Select Data' to assign x and y data to charts easily.

That online Excel was basically crippled.

I don't understand how such a great online version of Excel could be done so horribly wrong. Had to use it for a data mining project in a college group project, and it was F*cking dismal. Also couldn't use Sheets for online collab, as the charts kept inversing for no reason.

I had to chuckle as I saw people on the Microsoft and Reddit forums literally calling out for blood, and got nothing but corporate speak.
 

PizzaOnTheRoof

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And on that fine note, never, ever use Microsoft Excel 360.

Was F*cking hell to find I couldn't do simple things like break paragraphs within cells, or use 'Select Data' to assign x and y data to charts easily.

That online Excel was basically crippled.

I don't understand how such a great online version of Excel could be done so horribly wrong. Had to use it for a data mining project in a college group project, and it was F*cking dismal. Also couldn't use Sheets for online collab, as the charts kept inversing for no reason.

I had to chuckle as I saw people on the Microsoft and Reddit forums literally calling out for blood, and got nothing but corporate speak.
There’s and idea right there: Data mining specific SAAS.

Tbh, Redditors call for blood when they stub their toe.
 

ZF Lee

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There’s and idea right there: Data mining specific SAAS.

Tbh, Redditors call for blood when they stub their toe.
I wouldn't encourage it as a first product though, unless you've got A LOT of skin in the game.

You've got to think whether the user is a code nerd.

Or is not, and only just wants to get things done.

That makes a huge difference in how you make the software look and work.

For my data mining unit now, I have to learn to use Weka, and I'm not sure why I have to learn it. While its one of the oldest data mining tools around, and set the gold standard to a certain degree, there's something wrong about shoving all the shit to a bunch of mysteriously labelled algos. UI can also be rather chunky.

Available documentation to refer to is also rather scanty, unlike R or Python.

Would be good to develop the first muscles in that area by contributing to open-source projects. For instance, Hadley Wickham who contributed the tidyverse and ggplot2 packages to R, which is very important if you want cleaner code syntax and nicer charts.

 

Mario_fastlaner

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Maybe you should start with something where you are sure to solve a problem: a job (otherwise they wouldn't pay you).

Then you could find problems in your job and starting from here.
 
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Johnny boy

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Sometimes it’s not about solving a problem.

I run a lawn care business.

I buy labor for $15 an hour and sell it for around $60 an hour and pocket the difference.

Yeah, we “solve” the problem of people needing their lawn mowed. But so can 50 other businesses in the area.

I make money because I avoid unnecessary costa, keep prices high, and have systems which allow me to hire cheap labor while still getting them to perform services. I don’t make money because we do a good job or actually solve any real problems. We literally mow lawns.

Before talking about what business you should go into, you should figure out what you want your life to be and what your goals are. That’s first.
 

Mr992

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Sometimes it’s not about solving a problem.

I run a lawn care business.

I buy labor for $15 an hour and sell it for around $60 an hour and pocket the difference.

Yeah, we “solve” the problem of people needing their lawn mowed. But so can 50 other businesses in the area.

I make money because I avoid unnecessary costa, keep prices high, and have systems which allow me to hire cheap labor while still getting them to perform services. I don’t make money because we do a good job or actually solve any real problems. We literally mow lawns.

Before talking about what business you should go into, you should figure out what you want your life to be and what your goals are. That’s first.
It may not look like but you're still solving a problem, even if it's a very simple and easy one.

But yeah, business is simple: just do something people pay for.
 

Jeix

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The method I use is a little different and might not apply to you, but here it is anyway: I try to look for problems that I have myself.
There are many problems out there than anyone could ever solve but you aren't necessarily good at solving all of them.

Are there problems that could be solved among the soccer fans? For sure, but I hate soccer and couldn't bear spending a single minute of my day thinking about it, so I'm not gonna bother.

Should I start ecommerce? I don't know, am I having trouble finding the stuff I need or is there already plenty of it on amazon? If I already have no trouble solving this need of mine, to me this is the likely answer that most people will come to as well, meaning there's no incentive to me of making this business work because I fail to understand the need behind it.

Should I create the next facebook or the next fortnite? I don't know, am I really having a hard time being social or is there already plenty of that? Do I need another fortnite or can I quench my thirst for that genre using that already?
Same concept applies, if these checks fail, I won't start that business.

In other words, if I don't need it, most likely other people don't need it either.
I know there's a fallacy in this but really you cannot bring yourself to do something that you despise just because the market wants it, you're still human.
I know TMF said not to do what you love but in my opinion what you really need to do is find a good balance between something you enjoy and something that the market needs. Either extreme will get you nowhere.

If I do find myself needing something and having a hard time solving it, I'll start doing that because:
1) It's a need I have, meaning it's related to something I do or that I'm passionate about, i.e. I'm likely to have what it takes to solve this need both for me and other people.
2) If I have this need and can't satisfy it, it's likely that tons of other people out there have it too and are looking to satisfy it.

You may be at a point in your life where you don't have any needs at all. That just means you need to go out and explore: try new things, try a new job, don't be scared to have real life experience, I know TMF said not to trade your time for money but we all need to get started somewhere: the takeaway is not to do it for your whole life!

I used to be a F*cking videogame addict (3000+ hours on dota 2) until I got a job that forced me to go around in the rain ringing doorbells and bothering people. The job was trash but it taught me a lot in just 6 months of doing it than years of education ever could. After quitting that, I moved on to new projects with my newfound experience and am having good success. It's nothing to write home about quite yet but I'm now making the same money from home at my own pace rather than from walking around 8 hours a day (10 if you include commute), I'd call that a huge improvement.

That said, I wish you the best of luck in your journey, I hope I was able to help you.
All the best!
 

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