The #1 Problem
“What is the number one problem you are trying to solve?”
This question is very familiar to young startups as most potential investors are likely to ask it.
It’s a good and relevant question, since, if there is no problem, why bother?
It helps identify whether the problem is “real”, “big enough”, and “common” to the audience the company is targeting.
The other relevant part of the question is “#1”. As Nassim Taleb says: “If you need more than one reason for doing something, just don’t do it.” Obvious decisions (robust to error) require no more than a single reason.
However, as businesses grow, leaders tend to forget about this question. Their actions tend to be driven by other concerns, whether it is internal politics, financial returns, cutting costs, status. These may also be good reasons, but not as good as focusing on the very essence of the business.
Focusing on this question drives empathy. It is a generous act to solve a problem for someone else. And it often pays off in the long run. What lacks empathy however is:
to be loud by spending millions on Facebook ad campaigns,
to launch a new product or service simply because all the competition is also doing it,
to execute on your grand vision, without asking your audience if they cared.
Successful leaders (and organizations) love their audience, they are obsessed with them, and they are focused on solving a specific problem.