Humans think in terms of solution first. It’s natural, but if you are a product leader, it drastically narrows the potential for what you create.
A few examples:
We need to hire a babysitter.
We need to add rich text editing to our word processor.
We need to save more money.
We need admin user rights.
We need to add time tracking.
We need build automation tools.
We need a vacation.
We need to refinance our house.
Can you see how all of these are solutions?
The issue at hand is that our quick answer bypasses the reality that any problem we imagine has many solutions. The solution set is large and we are typically picking the one that is right before us. It’s unlikely to be the best.
One of the best tricks to get around this problem came by way of the Achievement Habit by Bernie Roth (Stanford D. School).
The technique is to reframe any idea you’re considering by simply asking ‘What would solving this problem do for me?’. This helps to isolate the underlying goal or outcome you have in mind.
Once you have clarified the desired outcome, ask yourself ‘how might we accomplish this?’. With this simple reframing, you’ll find yourself imagining many more potential solutions than you had considered even a moment before. It’s a great tool to drive a focused brainstorming session.
This does not mean your initial idea isn’t great. It might be, but more often than not, by using ‘how might we’, you’ll back into a better understanding of the problem and a better solution.
If nothing else, you’ll have more confidence in your original choice and a realization that it was an idea all along, and not a non-negotiable ‘requirement’.
It’s a simple trick, but one I find myself using more and more.