Any company, absolutely any company in the world has one job — to sell a product or service that they make. Essentially, every product or service solves some particular problem. If you’re buying a television, that solves the problem of entertainment and information — for example. In that context, there are essentially two kinds of companies — the ones that discover a problem, and arrive at a new solution that is yet to be offered by anyone else — so they do it for the first time, making them if not the market leader, the market starter.
Not every company that came first to the table with a solution necessarily leads the market. Because the first solution might not be perfect and its the perfect solution, or at-least the near-perfect solution, that leads the market. “Motorola DynaTAC 8000x” was the first ever commercial mobile phone that solved the problem of wireless communication. But Apple is the market leader today. Motorola did lead initially, but that didn’t stay strong for very long. Market leaders may change over time. Who starts might not lead, and who leads might not stay to be the leader.
And a “near-perfect solution” is the one that is most convenient. Every time a company comes up with a comparatively convenient solution, it gets closer to the perfect solution. Communication through landlines seemed the perfect solution, until mobile phones came — which were essentially more CONVENIENT.
The second kind of company is the one which hops into a market that already exists. Everyone knows what the problem is, everyone knows the solution. This new company cannot offer any new kind of a solution that is fundamentally different from the rest, but this company still comes in because it has a different story to offer to the same solution.
There are hundreds of televisions today. All of them solving the same problem — entertainment and information. There are also hundreds of television manufacturers. Although they are all solving the same problem with fundamentally the same solution in fundamentally the exact same way — the story each company has to offer is different. While one company says they have the “smartest” TV, another company banks on the story of “The thinnest TV in the world”, at the same time there is another company that sells how the “features” are “different” from the rest. Suddenly, the choice isn’t about what solution to choose to solve a given problem, its which story of the same solution is more attractive?
What does a company do? Build a product or a service that essentially solves a problem, and then sell it. Sell it not just by talking about the product or the service itself, but by choosing to weave a beautiful story to it. Because we don’t buy the moral of the story without the story. Its the story that leads us to the moral. Its the story that makes us buy the product.
If ultimately, the idea is to solve a problem, can we just start a company based on data? The data of all the problems that exist in the world. Can we come up with a list of 100 problems that are out there yet to be solved. Is it possible to decide on the problem to be addressed, the company to be built, based on a much more data driven, intellectual decision making?
I understand — this is going against having an amazing story to the inception of a company. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and perhaps a lot more CEOs/founders of companies have very passionate beginnings. They “knew” what they love and they were passionate about what they were building. There was passion, determination and sheer confidence that served as strong foundations for a huge company to be built.
There are a lot of artists who are amazing artists only because they have consciously put in a lot of hours to practising it. If art is a conscious decision that one can make and become a master at, a company also is something that can be built based on data, analysis, planning, execution, failure, correction and repetition.
Building a company can happen — even if you are not passionate about the problem you are solving. A company can be built based on a research of the problems that exist, the problems that are within your intellectual reach, and based on which one of those problems make you personally curious to look for a solution.
How do you know that you found the right problem to solve? How do you know that it’s the right company to build?
Quick questions to ask yourself:
1. Does finding a solution to the problem you found, solve for inefficiency that exists in the system? CCTV cameras solved the problem of over watch and security. They are a technology that the whole world thrives upon not just because they enable you to record what is happening — but because they solve the inefficiency of having a human on that job. Because human personnel siting only to look at, remember and protect without threat is monotonous. It’s an inefficient job. CCTV cameras solved the problem of over watch and security by removing — inefficiency. So! Does the problem you want to solve also have inefficiency to tackle? Removing inefficiency betters the odds of people wanting to employ your solution.
2. Does the solution that you have to offer break a queue that exists to get to the solution? Okay, clearer view — booking flight tickets through internet was a solution that everyone figured out. But it was also something that only a few people could do in your locality not long ago. It was very common for people to go and stand in a queue outside some random travel agent’s shop, who would sit and book the tickets that you wanted because a common man couldn’t do it himself. The solution today is any app like a simple MAKE MY TRIP. You just download the app or go to the website to book whatever tickets you need without WAITING IN A LINE. Restaurant reservations happened while waiting in a queue at a point of time — which seems completely strange today. So, are people standing in any form of a queue — either physically or softly — to get to a solution to any given problem? Can you solve that problem by breaking that queue? Because breaking a queue means bringing efficiency too.
Those aren’t the only ways that one can use to zero-in on a problem to solve, but those are the most tangible points I can now think of that one can rely upon to make a decision — or at the least, go closer to making a decision.
What does a company do? A company solves a problem by offering a product or a service. This problem to be solved can be chosen quite consciously if one is willing to make the necessary effort consciously.
A world class company can be built by first building a world class product. A world class product can be built by first understanding the problems of the world that you are curious to find the solution for. Your curiosity does matter. “What makes you tick?” Is still an important question. But that question can be answered strategically.