What problem are you solving?

At a recent meeting, one of the speakers asked this question of the audience. He had borrowed it from a popular business programme on television. In the programme, he explained, one of the would-be investors stopped the would-be entrepreneur in his tracks by asking him this question. Presumably, the invention or service of the entrepreneur didn’t answer any need.

Later, I pondered this idea and applied it to the real world. I even applied it to the most successful product that humankind has ever seen; cigarettes.

So what problem is a cigarette solving Mr. Smartypants? I can’t think of any. Unless it is to satisfy a craving for nicotine. But then, where did this craving come from?

When you look closely at the vast majority of products and services on offer in today’s society, they don’t solve any problems. On the contrary, they create problems. They artificially create a need, then try to satisfy that need.

The problem with such a question is that it appeals to our rational brain. “Of course!” we tell ourselves, “it’s so obvious.” But psychologists have known for a long time, that when it comes to a purchasing decision, rationality comes a poor last on any list of criteria. Just look at the last car you bought.

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