Improving people’s lives by solving unsolved problems with thoughtful design innovation

Breaking down our purpose: Why we’re here

When you visit the Mindsense website, at the top of the page, you’ll see our purpose front and center — as it’s been there for years (minus a brief hiding period):

We recently refocused the language a bit, so I want to take the opportuntiy to dissect what it means and unpack the intention behind the words.

There’s three major components to our purpose statement:

  1. Improving people's lives
  2. Solving unsolved problems
  3. With thoughtful design innovation

Let me break down each. In the past, I’ve written a bit on the first two, but it’s time now to expand on the third a bit more.

1. Improving people’s lives

We do not do what we do in pursuit of anything but this. Our higher-order goal, at all times, is to do what we do to improve human lives. The value we deliver can be very simply calculated by multiplying the difference of people’s lives with our products in them by the number of people using them.

This is what gets us up in the morning excited to work, and it’s what leaves us feeling fulfilled when we leave work or go to sleep in the evening.

We do not do what we do in pursuit of profits, or benefitting entities or institutions as a whole in ways that do not benefit the human individual.

We’re here to improve people’s lives with what we do.

2. Solving unsolved problems

We do not build “me-too” products. What’s the point? That would be simple pursuit of money, and would not improve our customer’s lives. It would just give them another option for an existing solution; one that gives us money instead of someone else. Achieving point #1 means we’re always going to be solving unsolved problems.

Besides, unsolved problems are the ones that really get us going. They’re an addicting challenge. Besides contributing something much more meaningful to people, unsolved problems are deeply exciting and fulfilling because they require hard work. They require a ton of research, thinking creatively and empathetically, deeply understanding the psychology at play, the sociology, and the human nature of the people that have to deal with or even contribute to the problem.

Solving unsolved problems requires lots of iterations, lots of leaning back and thinking, and lots of leaning forward and tinkering. And when solved, the level of fulfillment is unparalelled.

And that brings us to number 3…

3. With thoughtful design innovation

We’re not here to make things prettier. That’s being handled by a lot of startups out there. There’s no shortage of pretty — and thoughtless — software for people to use. The rise of “growth hacking” is evidence of the thoughtlessness behind the many artistically designed but ultimately status quo software apps being sold.

Because of #2 above, solving unsolved problems, we’re inherently tackling big problems. And when the problems are big, people don’t need an app with a prettier interface and an interesting feature or two. They need a whole new process or workflow, a shift in perspective based on an understanding of their own mind’s perspective, or a rethinking so thoughtful and well-crafted that it equips them to tackle new things in new ways.

They need something that does not simply put a bandaid on the current status quo. When the problems are big, they need a paradigm shift.

Design is not lacking today. Thoughtfulness is. And we’ve always, from the very beginning, believed very deeply in thoughfulness. It’s woven into every fiber of our company and products.

Many imitate successful companies by copying their answers when they should instead copy their questions, and discern their own answers. This is harder, as you have to figure out what the right questions were, and you have to figure out your own answers. But the companies that do this are immediately obvious. They look unique, they buck trends. But not because that seems cool (those imitators are easy to identify), it’s because they’re asking themselves the tough questions, and they’re taking the time to figure out the right answers for themselves.

Thoughtful design innovation is this way.

When we launched Mail Pilot, it was a clear hit (not instant, but clear). It was intentional — in a sea of unintentionally designed software. Unintentional design is everywhere: it’s that thing that happens when something is the way it is… just because… that’s how it ended up.

It’s easy to identify software that was designed, but carelessly. Users of these apps adopt & drop them. They’re exciting to start using, but lacking any truly added value to the user’s life, people end up dropping it over a period of time; going back to what they were using or doing before (or on to something else).

What is missing in our industry is thoughtfulness. This is what people are without. Intentionality. They see these pretty, flashy apps that they adopt and drop pretty quickly because none of them are life-changing; none of them express a deep understanding of how the human mind thinks about the displayed information through their interfaces and interactions. None of them tap into something deeper with the user that completely changes its category; reorienting the thinking to a model that gives the user a much better shot at success in whatever they’re doing.

It’s funny because it looks like our industry is bubbling with innovation when it’s just bubbling with aesthetics. The proliferation of adopt & drop usage, growth hacking, and dedication to techniques to increase conversion and stickiness is all you need as evidence to realize that software products today might not lack design but certainly lack thoughtfulness and innovation.

And to stifle an obvious argument here: am I saying no one should ever track and concern themselves with conversion rates, churn, and the like? Of course not. But it’s no use to focus on these metrics for a meaningless, even if pretty, product. Techniques to increase conversion rates should not be one of the first things you look into; a lot more time should first be spent on the product — figuring out the right problem to solve, and how to solve it in such a way that your product is 10x better than the current state of the art. This is what we use design innovation for.

What we do is work on products that are so thoughtful and innovative that they present so much value to the user that they couldn’t stand going back to what they were using before.

Our solutions are obvious in hindsight, but no one else is getting to them first.

And to be clear, our ideas are not perfect right out of the gate — we still have to iterate — but we iterate on product and process, not on converting more people and installing growth tactics. As a small company, we’re severely limited on bandwidth, so we can only focus on one. We choose not to focus on selling a trinket but rather on making products so beneficial and innovative that they sell themselves.

This is what Mail Pilot 3 is all about. This is why, ultimately, we realized we need to go back to our flagship product, dust it off, and breathe new life into it. It brings to the heavy email user a refreshing thoughtfulness; surprising intentionality.

To get updates on Mail Pilot 3 “Carbon Fiber” sign up here:

And to learn more about what design innovation is to us, read on:

We could not have crafted a truer purpose statement early on in our existence. It wasn’t until years 2 and 3 that it started to come into focus.

This is because it’s a process of discernment, not isolated aspiration.

If you’re crafting your own purpose statement, take the time to discern why your company or product exists. What unmet need does it fulfill? Why is this so important to you? Build up from there.

Finally, if you want to receive my new articles on (most) Thursdays, sign up here.




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Alexander Obenauer

Alexander Obenauer

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