For those of us interested in innovation, we notice in ourselves and others a tendency to work more on the answers than the questions. There are many aphorisms that remind us of the importance of questioning our actions:
- Look before you leap.
- If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll surely get there.
- “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” (Stephen Covey)
Here is an interesting article I read last winter in the Harvard Business Review. I won’t spend time summarizing it apart from saying I love this (possibly apocryphal) Albert Einstein quote: “If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I’d spend 19 trying to define it”.
- “So What?”
- “Who Cares?”
- “Why Me?”
“So What?” is another way of framing the existence of a problem. Why is your idea relevant? What is the problem that people need solving?
“Who Cares?” addresses the market segments that you’d address. Why will they delay other projects and other spending priorities to spend time and dollars on your idea? What will they find compelling about your idea?
“Why Me?” is self-explanatory. Why will others choose your product over the others they have to choose from? What’s your competitive advantage that is difficult to replicate? (Note: if there are no other competitors, then there may not be a real problem and you should go back and reconsider the first question).
As the great philosopher Jimmy Buffet wrote in his song Off To See The Lizard: ”Answers are the easy part. Questions raise the doubt.”