Everything you do should create value.
When deciding to venture down the road of entrepreneurship, many people will tell you that you need to define a problem, attack the problem, and of course provide a solution in order to develop a viable product.
Some, or really most advocates of this theory, will transfer some form of knowledge in problem identification onto armies of wide eyed wannabe entrepreneurs. I wish they’d stop, because it’s phony, shenanigans and quite frankly bollocks.
Why? Two reasons. Some of the most innovative products (and mind you not all) don’t solve problems, they provide value instead. By looking first at problem identification, you limit yourself to the scope of what’s already out there. This effectively blocks you from making something completely new, unique and phenomenal.
Don’t buy it? Fine, let’s look at a product examples.
Example numero uno, and only uno cause this is gonna be a quick one. Twitter.
Let me ask you a question. Do you believe that there was a deep-rooted underlying need to broadcast 140 characters in February 2006 via non-SMS means? The answer is no, and the longer answer is noooooooooo!
Proponents of the problem ideology will claim that it was solving a communication issue. Similarly, they’ll argue that people were writing too much on blogs, and it needed to be less. Truth is, you can make a case for anything, i.e. read this Quora Link, it’s short. But the honest truth (and unless Evan Williams tells me otherwise) is that they just built some cool shit.
Why did it work? Because it was riddled with the V word. Value. There was massive value in broadcasting a message that limited you to the character limit in a SMS, but on the webs.
What was that value?
Unclear at launch, let’s put it that way, but people have a fun way of bringing ingenuity and discovering most excellent uses for awesome things, and now, Twitter is a news reader, a conversation medium, a broadcast network, a popularity contest, et al., a dynamic and robust platform that provides tantamount value to masses of individuals.
But what if Twitter & Co. was devised initially as a solution to a problem? What if it were devised as say a “social news reader” – problem, your friends and you have similar interests, and the web has loads of blogs, how do you find out about the blogs your friends read? You make a website that lets people share the blogs they read via social means.
Lame. Why? It’s extraordinarily limited in scope. Products that are typically engineered to resolve an issue will do just that, they may have sustainable business models, they may even be profitable, but they’re never going to be game changers.
Since we’re on the topic of Twitter, I reckon we ought to look as well at a new product launched by a pretty big player, Google+. You see Google + was phenomenally engineered to fill the gap between Facebook and Twitter, case in deck that shows exactly how Google+ was contrived and positioned.
What It Does
And as for what it does, it does well (or poorly depending depending what you’re studying), it fits into this strangely ambiguous space, and between the interest layer and social layer. But is it really cool shit? Robert Scoble seems to think so, but I don’t. It just misses something, and that something is it’s not organic, it’s a platform that was engineered to fill a weird gap in the market (or to get Google into the social game), but it wasn’t built with “cool shit” in mind, the product is just too analytically devised, and it will never have the scope or reach or ingenuity of Twitter, because even Google’s $10+ bn in cash just can’t buy that certain Je ne sais quoi.
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