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Don't Solve Non-Existent Problems

Are you solving problems that don’t exist? It’s number two in our list of nine major risks to innovation. Being successful at innovation requires an understanding of the identified risks and having the ability to deal with them.

Let’s take a look at Risk #2: Solving non-existent problems.

Meet Siri. She is working with her local community to adopt a new program that was developed back at HQ, more than 10,000 miles away. It’s what people sitting in the home office imagine her customers need – not a problem they actually need solved. The new innovation only highlights the lack of insight they have into the real lives of the people they are trying to serve.

What is the root of the problem? It's designing without insight.

Most people make easy assumptions and generalizations about other people’s lives. They rely on broad preconceptions to drive the direction of an innovation. What results from this kind of research is disconnected from a real person’s needs.

So how do you mitigate risk? Start by creating a detailed view of an individual. Work to see them as a real person. Stop being abstract. Flesh out a picture of the life they live, developing a rich detailed view that enables the empathetic parts of your mind to participate in the creative process. It's best if you can perform on-the-ground research. And then identify an actual problem that matters, based on insight into a real person’s life. 

Download our free Actionable Innovation Toolkit with worksheets to help. 

Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.

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