Spending Time in User Problem Spaces

Albert Einstein is famously attributed with the quote, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” This advice is particularly relevant to product teams, who often jump straight into solving user problems without taking time to truly understand the problem space.

While businesses live in the solution space, users live in the problem space. Without immersing themselves in the problem space, product teams are at risk of building ineffective solutions. They must take the time to comprehend, define and prioritize the right user problems to solve.

Users and product teams have different motivations. Users are focused on resolving their problems, while product teams should be focused on understanding them. However, users often describe their problems in terms of the solutions they want. Rushing to build these solutions without proper unpacking can lead to ineffective solutions. Product teams need to bring users back into the problem space despite user reluctance in order to gain a deep understanding of the problem.

Uri Levine, co-founder of Waze, said it best: “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution, and the rest will follow.” The product team’s ultimate goal is to build products that solve meaningful user problems. If a product doesn’t solve meaningful problems, users won’t engage with it. The quality of a product solution is only as good as the product team’s understanding of the problem. Therefore, product teams should be comfortable spending a significant amount of their time in the problem space to ensure they build effective solutions.

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