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What’s Your Problem? Don’t Solutionize!

By Michael Ertel posted 07-26-2021 16:22


Understanding the concept of solutionizing—and avoiding it—can protect you from creating solutions that fail to solve your end users’ actual problems.
On its face, this seems like a simple common sense concept, but many people still unknowingly solutionize. If you take a deep dive, I bet you can find failed solutions that resulted from solutionizing.

What is Solutionizing?
Solutionizing is when you create a solution, but the problem your solution is trying to solve has not been defined or, even worse, might not even exist. This happens when you make presumptions about what a problem may (or may not) be, and then you create a solution without considering the actual problem—or even ignoring that no actual problem exists.

Solutionizing Analogy
Here is a simple math analogy: P + R = S
For our purposes, we define “P + R” as the problem and “X” as the solution.
To solve this problem, you must define the problem portion of the equation, that is, what are P and R. Otherwise, while there is a very small chance you could guess the solution correctly, it is more likely your solution will fail.

What’s Your Problem? How to Avoid Solutionizing?
Many of us have fallen down the solutionizing crevasse and created inadequate solutions because we failed to identify properly the actual problem we set out to cure. There are several ways to avoid this pitfall that all boil down to making sure you understand and properly define the problem. Set aside your assumptions and don’t presume you understand the problem or your end users’ needs. Always speak with your end users and ask questions, then ask more questions, and the then ask even more follow up questions until you have fully fleshed out and understand the problem. This will help guide your solution to a more meaningful endpoint.

Solutionizing Hypothetical
Let’s assume you work with a group that frequently performs a repetitive difficult task for their clients. Your initial instinct is that this frequent task is an inefficiency that is a problem for my end users and it is ripe for me to solve with a [insert solution here].
Just because you think it is a problem, does not mean your end users agree. Like Billy Joel recognized, “you may be wrong for all I know but you may be right.” Put another way, if you offer a solution without fully understanding the problem, you’ll likely offer the wrong solution. You need to drill down, investigate further, and determine whether this repetitive task is actually a problem for your end users. If it is a genuine problem, then you need to take steps to identify the problem and determine whether a viable solution is possible.

Next time, like outlining a novel, try to take more time to investigate and make sure that you have a well-defined problem to solve. Speak to your end users and ask questions. You may just develop a deeper understanding that will result in a more meaningful and useful solution.

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