No solutions without problems

Tiina Apilo @TiinaApilo


In the case of a business acceleration model, development work does not begin with a product or service idea. Instead, thought should be given to what kind of problem is worth solving. So, everything begins with the identification of a suitable problem. For its solution to be turned into a scalable business, a good problem should be one that is important to a large enough number of people. Of course, such a problem should also be a fit with the company in terms of the latter’s expertise, resources and strategy.

” We still tend to think too much like I have this idea that I want to do rather than is it what people really need.”

Together with the customer

The best ‘right’ kinds of problems can be found by getting out of the office and identifying the actual challenges faced by potential customers. Asking users and customers is not enough, because the respondents are often unable to define the problem. Of course, companies operating in the BtoB markets can chat with customers about future business activities and the changes under way in them. Fears and anxieties are particularly worthy of careful attention.

However, there is no need to scrap traditional approaches to idea generation and platforms within companies or shared by innovation networks. The key issue is to ensure that the user and customer lie at the centre of idea generation. The focus should on the kind of user and customer experiences you wish to create.  In large organisations, flexible development methods and the development of an internal innovation culture will promote the identification and progression of new ideas. Other hallmarks of large, innovative companies include permission to be inspired, experiment and fail.

Testing the problem

” We will use the technique of customer interviewing to make sure that what we are doing is actually what people need.”

During the acceleration of a new business, it is worth performing continuous small tests to measure customers’ interest and willingness to buy. In the following matrix, I tried to visualise – from the business model perspective – how development occurs gradually, at ever greater levels of definition. The four levels of definition, or ‘readiness levels’, are as follows: drafted, created, tested and validated. I divided the business model into four components from the perspective of new development: problem, solution, value proposition and sustainable business. During the first phase, the problem should be the centre of attention. Rough sketches at vision-level are sufficient for the other components, which you will need in order to tell your stakeholders about your amazing goals.


What should be achieved before the next phase?

The key issues during this phase include making the problem concrete and describing it, while understanding its scope, to ensure that the required partners and sponsors commit to developing a solution. There is still no need for a precise description of the business model – a vision of your future business will suffice.


We have developed a business accelerator model via the Accelerate project. For further information on the background and goals of the model, see the earlier publication How to accelerate the development of new business activities?

The quotes are comments from companies, given in validation interviews for the Accelerate model, on their own business acceleration stories.

3 thoughts on “No solutions without problems

  1. Pingback: Problem-Solution fit | Service Science Odyssey

  2. Pingback: Finding a value proposition | Service Science Odyssey

  3. Pingback: Scaling and building a sustainable business | Service Science Odyssey

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s