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What problem are you solving - and for whom?

Creativity can be powerful... except when it leads us to design for our own interests rather than our customers' needs.

Are you energized by creating new things? I am. I love everything about building. I thrive at each step on the journey from ideation to reality. Blank pages are my jam. My happy place is standing in front of a clean white board with a bucket of dry erase markers on a meeting-free morning. And it’s a problem.

Those of us who love creating can sometimes start new projects at our own point of inspiration rather than our customers’ point of pain. We design products and services around our interests rather than a deep understanding of their needs. That’s a fine howdy-do to the people who’ve shown up for us, isn’t it?

When my own inspiration flows, I’ve learned it’s best to let it flow. I’ll be too distracted for anything else until I get it out. And I’ve learned this can be true for teams, too. And boards.

The next time you catch yourself or someone else saying “Hey, you know what we should do? We should ________”, here’s one way you can handle it:

First, read the room. Did people perk up? Lean in? Look awake? Awesome! Creating meaningfully generative space isn’t always easy, so take this opportunity to let people run with new ideas.

Next, capture and contain it. Record the key ideas and move on with the agenda.

Finally, circle back and ask this threshold question: What problem does it solve - and for whom?

If it’s clear to you and your team that this idea is responsive and important to your customers, members, or subscribers, bingo! Greenlight this for exploration. Gather insights. Test assumptions. Calibrate and re-calibrate based on what you’re learning. Engage your stakeholders in co-design with you, and by the time you’re ready to go live, you’ll have an audience eagerly anticipating the arrival of your new product or service.

If, on the other hand, it’s not clear that this actually solves a problem for the people you’re here to serve, put it on the wall of Good Ideas We’ll Turn To Someday When We’ve Solved Everything Our Customers Care About Today.

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