You Have Your Why, Now How to Truly Define the Problem

“If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would take 19 days to define it” - Albert Einstein.

I first heard this quote from the amazing and inspiring Dr Andrew Chacko in our second session of Project Zygote.

This is something that entrepreneurs can easily skip, or can do lightly at the start of their product development journey. Take my word for it, it is an incredibly important part of starting a business and it should never end. You should be continuously learning about the problem and your users as you develop your business.

If you have the problem that you’re trying to solve personally, then it is a lot easier to empathize with your users and understand where to find them. If you don’t, then you should at least know someone that has the problem that you’re trying to solve. This is important for many reasons:

  • Selling your vision - if you don’t have any personal connection to the problem, it will be difficult for you to get others to believe in you.

  • Mapping the actual user problem - you will need to find users with the problem and then look to map exactly what the problem is that they face. What are the key points for them? I suggest using empathy mapping and creating personas for this.

  • Finding users and marketing - if you have the problem, then you’ll know where to find other people like you that have the problem. This is important for both research purposes and user acquisition.

  • Speaking to the medical experts - you’ll want to speak to the medical experts within your field. For me, this was Gastroenterologists and Dietitians. These people are super users, having access and in depth knowledge about the problem that users face.

"Now it’s time for you to ‘get out of the building’" - Steve Blank (serial entrepreneur).

There are multiple ways for you to conduct research, but here are the best ways that I found.

  • Create your persona and define your target user. This is important as you need to be sure that you’re getting the right people for your research.

  • Create an online survey using Google Forms. Create this survey and put a post out to your network asking for friends of friends who meet your project description.

  • Set up user interviews. In the early days I set up over 25 thirty-minute interviews, which I documented in a Google Doc. It was time consuming, but very important.

  • Go to places where your target users are, or even better, go through their experience. If you’re helping someone who has to visit a hospital, then try and replicate their experience and map out the key things that you notice (this relates to journey mapping).

  • Facebook support groups, such as PatientsLikeMe. This is a gold mine. If you really want to understand what people are talking about, then jump onto these forums. You’ll be able to see the problem at scale, how people are currently dealing with it. (Caveat - please be respectful with these groups, if you don’t have a condition then don’t join the group. Ask friends or a family member who has the condition to join and then get insights from them.)

You’ll see a theme throughout all of my articles, and that is that you should continually test and learn from your users. When I was starting out, I went to the Ferry Building Farmer's Market in San Francisco and interviewed over 60 people on an iPad. While they were hunting for kale, I asked them to take part in my questionnaire.

So what are you waiting for? Go get out there!

Have a question about this article? You can ask questions on Twitter @D_Mack7

About the Author: Dave McManus is a digital-health entrepreneur, Project Zygote graduate, and the founder of Spry.

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