I'm sure you've heard this rallying battle cry—Find problem worth solving!—and perhaps it resonated with you. But, what does that really mean?

Underlying assumption here is that if we have a "problem worth solving," then we might have a lucrative opportunity.

Now, the issue with that is that there are lucrative opportunities even if there are no problems (e.g. iPhone); and that there are problems that are important but not worth solving for an organisation (e.g. world hunger is an important problem, but there aren't thousand of business popping around it).

We can frame above issues in multiple ways, but now I want to focus on the perspective of corporate innovation—i.e. innovation teams within large organisations.

Outcomes first

First, it's better to think about customer outcomes—what are they really trying to achieve? The problem framing looks at one side of that, focusing on their frustration and challenge with getting that done as they wish. It misses out on outcomes they might not be struggling with, but they still care deeply about.

Mutual value second

Second, this needs to be worth addressing to both the customer and the organisation. Innovation teams often look into both way too late.

The former can be uncovered through understanding how much are the customers currently spending on achieving desired outcome (either directly or through alternative solutions) and by putting out the smallest solution you can charge for and then tracking traction (e.g. growth in sales).

The latter can be assessed through market sizing and comparing it to the ambition level of the organisation. A market of 40 million euros might be great for a start-up, but worthless for an organisation that plays in a billion euro markets.

Waste never

To sum up:

  • Focus on customer outcomes as they are broader and offer more opportunities to innovate.
  • They are worth addressing only if they create meaningful difference to both them and you.

Don't waste money on innovation.