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Solve a Problem... Or Find a New One

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on August 29, 2005

When generating ideas for a new venture, you may take one of the following two strategies:

Start with the problem to be addressed and brainstorm potential solutions. Generate a new approach to an old problem.

Or you could start with the solution or technology to be used and brainstorm potential applications. In other words, take an old approach to a new problem.

Make relatively small investments in sequential entrepreneurial “experiments,” creating the opportunity (but not obligation) to commercialize or proceed with the result.

David Hsu
Management Professor
The Wharton School
University of Pennsylvania

Reader Comments

Samuel R. Mason

August 30, 2005 10:07 AM

Esteemable Professor,

Might I suggest a third option: Look at the marketplace for your skill set and services and decide how to offer your services. Customers are not brand-loyal and will always examine a new service provider, especially if one offers convenience, business responsiveness, and great intercompany rapport. Who knows, they just may like your Web site or brochure.

For the hungry business person, the motivating factor may not be the desire to solve a problem in a new and interesting way or even to deliver an interesting or even Promethean technology to the world; it may be something as banal as the need to find a spot to set up a produce stand, or barber's chair.

Abstracted to the modern era, the true necessities of the majority of entreprenuers are boring things such as websites, collateral and potential customers. With these things they can make money by performing services that are routine and even commonplace, but profits are never boring.

In the post dot-com bomb era, more small business owners are needed to simply give variety to the marketplace to address existing needs. Visionaries can invent the better mousetrap or follow the dream of Sandhill Row and bring a great new solution to the world, but for most of us, the goal is simply to make money, acquire wealth and one day, be free -- free to follow one's own path.


Samuel Mason

"Who has knowledge of others is intelligent -
of himself, enlightened"

-- Lao Tse

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