What Problem Do You Want to Solve?

Don’t think about the job you want to have, but the problem you want to solve.

I recently attended the high school graduation of a friend’s son. It’s a fond memory we all have, and as I listened to the various dreams of the graduates, where they were headed, the careers they felt they are destined for… it reminded me of the clear fact that the job I have now, didn’t exist when I graduated high school, in fact it didn’t exist when I finished college. And so, I can’t help but wonder where their dreams will lead them.

Several faculty members were greeting parents, congratulating them on the success of their children, it was beautiful to see the supportive and nurturing environment that had surrounded them for the past four years. Advice was shared as we encouraged all of the students to find their path, at such a young age. But the best piece of advice I heard that night was:

Don’t think about the job you want to have, but the problem you want to solve.

It was like a collective lightbulb went off with the parents, as we start to wonder where our path has lead us. Am I in a career to be in a career? Or am I in a career because I’m doing what I love, and following my dreams?

Those of us who call ourselves entrepreneurs realized long ago that our “job” doesn’t fit in traditional boxes, we are “other” or “self-employed”, but are we much more than that? Are we the “problem solvers”? We don’t fit in just one category “sales”, “marketing”, “management” or “purchasing”, in fact there needs to be a box for “all of the above”, because often we are.

But when we go back to the idea of being problem solvers, how often do we re-examine the problem we were looking to solve? How has it changed, evolved, grown, or diminished? How has the economy, politics or even current events impacted those we wish to serve? Have we changed our message or our methodology to evolve with it? Are we still looking for problems to solve, or just assuming that the same problems still exist?

We need to go beyond “problem solvers” to “innovators”; because if we’re REALLY good at what we do, then the problems of our clients will diminish as we give them the tools to be successful, and so we must innovate to be ready for their next stage of development – how can we continue to serve their changing needs? How do we go from problem solvers, to supporters? How do we continue to innovate?

It’s definitely a discussion worth having.

I believe it’s about listening. What are your clients and prospects saying? Do you find that their needs don’t fit in the packages you’ve developed anymore? Do you find that you’re often in the position to find a way to make it work? Are you even speaking the same language?

Going back to the high school graduates, we should say the same thing to ourselves that we do to them, when they struggle with their path, “its OK not to know”. And it is. It’s OK not to know, but its important to continue to work towards it.

We are all in such an exciting time, where opportunities are limited only by our imagination. Let’s make the promise to never stop looking for new ways to serve, and to endlessly innovate.

Cheers to all of the high school and college graduates in our lives!