GUEST POST from Mike Shipulski
One of the best problems to solve for your customers is the problem they don’t know they have. If you can pull it off, you will create an entirely new value proposition for them and enable them to do things they cannot do today. But the problem is they can’t ask you to solve it because they don’t know they have it.
To identify problems customs can’t see, you’ve got to watch them go about their business. You’ve got to watch all aspects of their work and understand what they do and why they do it that way. And it’s their why that helps you find the transparent problems. When they tell you their why, they tell you the things they think cannot change and the things they consider fundamental constraints. Their whys tell you what they think is unchangeable. And from their perspective, they’re right. These things are unchangeable because they don’t know what’s possible with new technologies.
Once you know their unchangeable constraints, choose one to work on and turn it into a tight problem statement. Then use your best tools and methods to solve it. Once solved, you’ve got to make a functional prototype and show them in person. Without going back to them with a demonstration of a functional prototype, they won’t believe you. Remember, you did something they didn’t think was possible and changed the unchangeable.
When demonstrating the prototype to the customer, just show it in action. Don’t describe it, just show them and let them ask questions. Listen to their questions so you can see the prototype through their eyes. And to avoid leading the witness, limit yourself to questions that help you understand why they see the prototype as they do. The way they see the prototype will be different than your expectations, and that difference is called learning. And if you find yourself disagreeing with them, you’re doing it wrong.
This first prototype won’t hit the mark exactly, but it will impress the customer and it will build trust with them. And because they watched the prototype in action, they will be able to tell you how to improve it. Or better yet, with their newfound understanding of what’s possible, they might be able to see a more meaningful transparent problem that, once solved, could revolutionize their industry.
Customers know their work and you know what’s possible. And prototypes are a great way to create the future together.
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