I was talking to a fellow strategist about whether or not valuable problems, regardless of their nature, have any certain "traits" or characteristics in common. In other words is there a quick litmus test?
I have worked on and shipped dozens and dozens of products (starting in 2000 when I worked at Andersen Consulting designing and building early e-marketplaces for Fortune 1000 clients).
And if there are a set of traits that they had it was this:
Many of the good problems, and certainly products that had some success were ones in which in which from a customer perspective they had some urgency in solving. In other words, they were actively seeking to solve it and they need it today or tomorrow not “sometime”. Should not be simply a nice to have.
I like problems that have relevancy in the moment and within a situation the customer faces on a fairly frequent basis (vs. every once in a while). If you think about metrics one of the most important ones is utilization metrics (DAU and MAU). So a problem should also occur with some frequency.
It must be top of mind and they should feel a sense of relief or a burden lifted by having it solved. I like to classify problems into 3 degrees of burden:
1. Speed Bump: Speed Bumps are nuisance problems. Speed Bumps cause the least amount of friction and more often than not, many of us develop work arounds for these types of problems and can even used to them. (Which is important to consider when it comes to getting people to switch).
2. Hurdles: These are noticeable and unlike Speed Bumps are the types of problems that cause frustration, don't have good workaround and are problems that cause emotional anxiety.
3. Road Blocks: These should be obvious. It's essentially a problem in which there is no great way to solve it or worse keeps us from accomplishing something that's important.