Fall in love with the problem, not the idea

As part of our work we help people to think big and be bold and courageous to step into a new future and change the(ir) world. You might think that this means you have to come up with a grand idea and follow that dream always. But it is actually the opposite: you have to find a big problem and work on solving that. We always say: you have to fall in love with the problem (not the idea).


Falling in love with a problem

It is always tempting to focus on solutions. Ideas generate energy and with great ideas especially, there always seems to be a market for them. Or at least, in your head there is always a market for them. Very often organizations that are launching one product after the other (or are focused on the one product or service that they’ve always sold) tend to forget to ask themselves a very basic question: what is the problem we are solving with this idea?

If you can not answer that question, then what is the relevance for your customer? Are you trying to sell them something that doesn’t have any real value? Or are you making up a problem for them in order to sell your thing? If that is the case, I think you will find it very hard to dream big and come up with something that can truly change the world. And it is not as if there are no problems to solve. There are many problems and challenges out there that you could spend a lifetime on solving. Find one of those and try to come up with solutions for it (these problems can also be your organizational problems by the way).

That is why all of our sessions start with identifying a problem that people can relate to: a problem that they are motivated to solve. Once you’ve found a really difficult problem that almost seems impossible to solve and are willing to stick to, you can start dreaming big. Why? Because it will take a bold idea to solve that impossible problem.


Generating bold ideas

Never fall in love with the first solution you find for your problem! In the end you might find that this was the best solution after all. But when you go for one idea too fast, you limit your chances of finding better ones. Bigger problems always have more than one solution to move things forward. Magic bullet solutions don’t really exist.  Very often you need more than one idea to solve something (especially when it concerns wicked problems like the SDG’s for instance). Moreover, very often some incubation time helps to generate better solutions (this is called the “incubation effect“).

So don’t start acting upon the very first idea. Allow yourself and your organization a little more space to think of the next solution, and the next, and the next… Then keep those solutions alive for some time, so you can reflect on them, learn from them and develop the best ones into really valuable products and services. After all, it is not about the solutions you sell, but the problems you solve.


Jörgen van der Sloot

Written by Jörgen van der Sloot

Founder & Head of Futures at Minkowski