On Non-Solution Ideas

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The key to a good idea is taking a simple problem which has not been solved yet or one whose present solutions can be improved upon substantially, analysing this, and finding critical ways of approaching the challenges posed, when viewed through varying prisms, is fundamental for the evolution of effective solutions.


Sometimes, if you push far enough, the solution which evolves as the optimal one could be scaled up to be a business. This would largely depend on other factors, such as the nature of the problem, the barriers of entry to that specific industry, your desire and technical expertise and your ability to build effective teams to coalesce around — and further develop — your proposed solution.

It is necessary to put problems and solutions in the proper context of scalable and non-scalable ideas; of course, you should not jump straight to this conclusion without proper analyses and due diligence. Understanding what makes a business idea a business is basically the same as understanding what makes a child grow into an adult. Feeding a child and taking proper care of its health is analogous to doing market research on an idea to know whether the solution it presents is needed, and whether it is possible to grow a profitable enterprise around it.

Understanding the sequence of the process is vital and inverting this sequence almost always leads to the development of products without viable markets.

An ideal sequence can be summarized into the following three steps:

Problem identification → Ideation → Solution

Ideation involves the series of critical steps involved in creatively playing around with different facets of the problem and adopting different perspectives, in order to come up with various solutions, which are then optimised to get the final solution. Problems must always be first identified before solutions to them can be gotten.

It is quite common to come across people an individual with an idea for, say, a flying car or a self-writing pen, before then looking for a problem the solution solves. In cases like these, the individual who has the idea tends to fall in love with the idea and finds it hard to let go of it even when the data says it is time to offer the idea a graceful death. In worse cases, due to a pre-existing cognitive bias in seeing the need for that solution, the data may be viewed in a more favourable manner.

“It is very easy to be fooled by your own data.” — John Arnold

What delineates a good idea from a bad one is not quite as obvious as we would like to think it is. It could well be said that, in a broad sense, there really aren’t any bad ideas (except in extreme scenarios). But to make an idea work, it must be solving a problem which needs a solution or represents a better solution than is being offered presently.

As with everything else, it helps if you start at the beginning, the problem, and then work forwards.

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