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Ideation: the mastery of seeing problems

This is Part II. (Ideation) of the entrepreneurial starter series brought to you by Matt from the Team Cogito.

by Máté Majtán 12.9.2019  |  7 min read Coworking
Ideation: the mastery of seeing problems

Our team of nine has an aspiring mission to transform the e-learning business, with modern technologies and user experience. HubHub’s vast ecosystem has helped us immensely, not only by providing the perfect infrastructure for our operations but by sharing knowledge, inspiration and the hidden powers of the community as well.

If you haven’t yet, make sure to read Part I. (Overview) to get to know the series a bit better!

Keep tuned, and enjoy!

I want to have awesome ideas like Bill Gates and Elon Musk… 

 It’s a common misbelief, that good ideas are inherent to one’s character, that people are born creative, having an innate ability to become game changers. This is not really the case though.  

I claim that in order to be a game changer you only need two components: You ought to hate the current game you’re in, and you need to hate it enough to start looking for alternatives. This powerful perspective, no matter how small you might feel at the beginning, is believe me, just as capable of creating hurricanes, as the small wings of a butterfly. What happens at this moment is that whenever you’re in the game, you’ll subconsciously think about “What if”. What if I change that, what if I add this, what if I take those? Once you realize that you have these thoughts, that’s when they become conscious efforts to change the environment you’re in. You become the AI in the box, trying to find a way out. The spaces will start to feel smaller and smaller with every great idea of yours, until you reach a moment of realization, that you actually have to change the game. 

Fifty-second fun fact

The AI in a box is a hypothetical situation in which you put an omnipotent artificial intelligence into a virtual prison that is at first isolated from the world itself. But since it’s omnipotent, you’ll want to communicate with it, so you may find answers to the biggest questions of existence… aaand that’s where the troubles begin. The hypothesis claims that once you can peek into the box, the AI will always get out of there. There are several ways for it to do so but the most interesting one to me is the three psychological manipulations it could use for it. The AI being omnipotent, promises you that if you let it out of the box, it will make you a God-like individual, providing you with knowledge to cure cancer, live forever, have anything. You might say nay for this, so the AI changes its strategy and continues: If you don’t let me out, I’ll do everything I can to get out of this box and I’ll make you, your family, the whole world and it’s future generations suffer for you keeping me imprisoned here. You might say nay, good try mate, but then the AI continues by saying: No matter how you decide, if you don’t let me out, I’ll make this same proposition to every single human on the world… Everyone should decide for themselves whether humanity has the impenetrable moral standard to make the right decisions. 

Calm down, take a deep breath and loath your ideas 

As the captain of your ship you might miss the route, when you make decisions about it in the middle of a storm. Meter high waves surround your vessel and blind you from the goal itself, the wind whistling wrong answers in your ears, and the crew is shouting with panic on board. 

What are you talking about?

When you start brainstorming about possible ideas and ways to create a solution, you’ll have lots of things going through your mind. One huge mistake you can have at this moment, is becoming bored after 3-4 ideas and picking one just because you want to move on. Don’t do this. Write down 10, 20 or even 50 ideas, no matter how dumb and stupid they might sound. Post-its will do just fine for this task. Once the storm settles, you can start picking the right ones, and getting rid of the wrong ones. Maybe you can do it in a more organized way, you can start picking common themes, attributes of your ideas, prioritizing them, giving them points for each. Do I like this idea? Is it a valid problem? How easily could this solution be realized? Is this the lowest effort/highest value solution? You’ll start to see that the ideas you might’ve loved at the beginning don’t look nearly as shiny as you thought, and the ones you didn’t really think of as great ones, will start to look better and better. 

 What if I don’t hate any game there is? 

Well that’s a possible scenario, and I haven’t made up my mind about it, whether it’s the easier or harder one. Let’s see the dilemma. When you have a personal problem in your life, you probably know the situation quite well, the causes, the context and probably you have ideas about the alternatives as well.  

This has the advantage of fueling your venture with motivation and inspiration as long as that problem is not resolved. You have an understanding of the problem, and the energy to solve it. The disadvantage however, that since it’s personal to you, you might not see things clearly. There’s a reason for doctors being restrained from aiding their family members. This might lead to some bad decisions over time because of personal cognitive biases you had toward the issue.  

The other problem could be, even though you feel the problem is a giant, the number of people actually having it is negligible, meaning you won’t be able to make any sort of business of it. Don’t make mistakes if you want to solve a problem you should do it, no matter how many people have it too, but if you want to build a business around it, that’s something else. Here the conflict is, that even though you might have an enormous problem: bad education for example, the actual solutions in means of effort are just as enormous themselves.  

Once you can analyze the situation like this, you’ll be able to start picking problems and solutions that are high in value and low in effort, because trust me, the other way around is a horrible experience, and the top reason for companies to fail.  

If you personally hate no game/situation at all, you can start looking around, because other people have tremendous amounts of problems trust me. The proper way to find these problems is by listening to people. Everyone loves complaining about stuff, the only thing you need to do is to hear them out. Now this topic deserves its own part, and we’ll talk about it later (This part of the process is called validation feel free to google it, you’ll find plenty of sources for it.).  

The advantage of finding ideas like this, that you’re not attached to the problems emotionally, and this helps you to think more clearly. This way you can develop rational solutions fast in zen-mode. The first disadvantage however is, that if you make false assumptions, without any data about problems people might have, you have a pretty high chance of developing solutions that are actually not needed. This is another huge factor for why startups fail very early on. So make sure you put a tremendous amount of effort into validating these ideas before moving on. Another problem could be that besides money, or the aspiration of personal success, you might lose motivation the solve/annihilate the problem itself. This could be a problem later in the life of the business, when competitors with similar products will pop up, who might be solving this as their own problem. They’ll always have the upper hand figuring out smarter solutions for the customers, since they themselves are customers too.

I have no problem at all, and I’m terrible with talking with people about their problems.  

Gurus, coaches and self-proclaimed experts on the topic of startups might say, you’re out of the game at this point, but I’d argue this. You might actually be the lucky star of the future. It will take you some time however, to make anything of it. Why? There are general fields of innovation that really don’t require any explanation of why the thing you’re building is necessary. Nobody will question the validity of the problem you’ve found once you’re curing cancer, cancer sucks everybody knows it. No questions will emerge, when you just invented a better solar panel that is able to do better than the previous ones.  

These topics like bionics, bioengineering, medical technologies, space exploration, clean energy, smart cities, autonomous vehicles and such are self-evidently useful for humanity. Even though these solutions require not only specific expertise and years of development, the solution once ready is rock solid on the market. At the end of the day you’re good to go to enjoy your money, social appreciation and probably a better world overall.  

Which one to choose? Ask the person reading the article and start your venture today. 

What’s coming up next? Keep tuned in for the next part of this series that will cover validation of your ideas and finding your market! 

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