Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seek Problems, Dream Later

It came to me in a dream. I dreamt I was a bird, soaring above the trees, surfing the wind currents, gliding in for a landing. 


And I realized at that moment that I just had to build a flying machine, and that humans would never naturally fly like a bird because we simply don't have the chest muscles, so we must have something like Wii-controlled, lightweight motorized wing pumps with just enough torque.


Well, none of that's true--for me anyway.

Maybe ideas come from dreams. But most innovation starts at the point of the problem. The concept stage is great because it's like flying in the dream--there's no gravity, no friction, few obstacles.

The real innovation happens when your customers or users try to use what you built on the basis of that concept. You start to learn about friction and gravity, but more importantly, you learn what they really need.

A friend of mine called yesterday to ask if I had ever seen a certain something for websites for small businesses, and I said in fact no, I had not, but it was a great idea. He had dug around the usual spots, and couldn't find anything.

It's one of these things that seems so obvious, but apparently nobody's built  a business. In fact, most of the technology--no--all of the technology already exists. And it's the kind of thing that would likely be broadly adopted, and there could be a real business there.

The only way he discovered that seemingly massive hole was by trying to help customers directly, working with them to help increase their businesses.

And it's not easy--it's work to get enough exposure to the point of the problem in order to innovate.

A founder of  a local started messaged me the other day saying he had made 40 calls with no hits--nobody was interested.

It must have been frustrating, but it made me wonder if he was telling about his solution or learning about what their issues were.

You have great ideas, great concepts, and such great energy that other people nod in agreement when you tell them about it.

But it's only when you immerse yourself in their worlds that you can begin to realize what the real issues are, and what innovations are needed to help them.

Go forth, seek problems--dream later.

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