Start With a Problem to Solve

Great businesses sell great products.  Great products come from great ideas.  Great ideas are formed by starting with a problem to solve.  So how do you build a great business?  Start with a problem to solve.

Accidental success?  Dr. Spencer Silver, a scientist at 3M, created the Post-it® Note kind of by accident.  He was attempting to develop a better adhesive, but the sticky substance behind the Post-it® Note didn’t hold well, so he persistently looked for another use for his invention.  It wasn’t until he was practicing with his church choir that he realized that the sticky substance helped to keep a bookmark in place – and so the Post-it® Note was born.  Finding a use for the adhesive was the real problem he had to solve, and now his product generates about $1 billion annually!

Spillover solutions.  Some problems are addressed by observing similar problems that already have solutions.  Take GPS, which was first developed by the U.S. military in the 1960s to track submarines carrying nuclear missiles.  It’s now the technology that your smartphone uses to track your way to a new restaurant.

The right solution for the right problem.  Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile, just the way to make them affordable for the masses.  John Wesley Hyatt was looking for a cheap substitute for ivory billiard balls when he invented the process for making celluloid, the first practical artificial plastic.  Wilson Greatbatch used the wrong electrical resistor in his heart-recording prototype and soon realized he’d created the first implantable pacemaker.  What all of these inventors have in common is that they found the right solution for the right problem.  And while they might have solved more than the original problem they first considered, they ultimately started with a keen focus on one problem and its solution.

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