Monday, January 02, 2006

Solutions in Search of Problems

A frequent mistake in business is to take what seems like a great potential solution and fit a product around it. For example, you might develop, or learn about, some great technology, and then build a product around it. Unfortunately, no matter how promising the technology, your product won't be successful unless it solves real problems in the marketplace.

Yet there is something comforting when you have exclusive knowledge about a technology. It creates a barrier to entry; a product that depends on the technology may be immune to competition, at least for a time, if no one knows about the technology, or if it is difficult to learn.

So you shouldn't necessarily dismiss "cool" new technology merely because it is a "solution in search of a problem". But you have to make sure you understand the market for any product centered around it. You need to understand whether the product solves real problems, that the problems are pervasive enough to appeal to a sizable market, and that people will be willing to pay to solve them. Most important, you have to recognize that people probably don't care about the technology itself, just what it does for them.

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