Quantified needs – before this decade is out!

Posted August 18, 2020

Throughout my career as an entrepreneur and startup coach, the focus on the idea has always overshadowed the focus on the need. Some argue that it’s too negative to focus on the problems. Why drain everyone’s energy by always thinking about what is not working? We want to be creative and constructive and look for the possibilities instead! So much more energy in that!

I argue that it is much more creative to look for the problem and to do so creatively and constructively. After all, the problem or the need is the reason for coming up with ideas in the first place. Why not make sure we understand what the need really is before jumping to solutions? Instead of plunging right into a brainstorm on endless happy possibilities (which is super easy and not necessarily all that creative btw), we are actually obliged to ourselves as entrepreneurs and tax payers to not waste time and resources on solving the wrong problem, just because we risk being called negative or uncreative.

Let me take an example that fits just as well for public transportation systems in Sweden as in most other places. How come so few public transportation operators actually sell what the customer wants to buy? If you ask the average commuter, almost every single one of them will be less interested in leaving their origin with a ticket in hand (or elsewhere), than they are in arriving at their preferred destination in time for what they want to do there. Yet the general idea is that you pay to be allowed travel and not because you have arrived. Except for some usually complicated refund schemes, I argue that that it is the commuter that takes all the risk in this bargain. The operator gets paid more or less regardless of if it delivers or not.

So what if, instead of asking for the most intelligent, technically advance and creative proposals for a new public transportation ticket system, why not find out if the old ticket system really was the actual problem? Or at least what undesired consequences of the old ticket system that should be remedied. Why is the problem a problem? What circumstances need to change for the problem not to occur? Who is affected by the problem? Who owns the problem? What would it be worth to those affected by the problem if it could be solved? These are the constructive questions that need som real creativity to be answered.

When we can answer these questions thoroughly, before we through ourselves into procurements, brainstorms and creative backslapping, the ideas quite often actually present themselves. The better you understand the need, the more likely you are to being closer to a well defined solution. And then you have more energy and creativity left to spend on making them happen. Which by the way is the real resource in demand for these challenges.

If we spent more creativity on the need, we might not have had yet another impossible ticket system, but perhaps an entirely new business model for public transportation that didn’t sell the right to depart, but what most of us would prefer to buy anyway, and what the world desperately needs in so many other aspects as well – the opportunity to arrive at our goals on time.


/Jonas Klevhag