Nov 2816

That's the problem

I was looking through our problem/idea list recently, and a few ideas jumped out.

One of those was an idea for goal tracking for teams. It was born from a personal pain point as an employee at a company that used to set short, medium and long term goals. The only issue was, they never told us what they were.

So I got thinking. What if I built something to solve this problem?

The solution I had in mind was just a simple system of logging goals, sharing and viewing them. The pain point was getting everyone on the same page. And it turns out that was the problem.

I asked about this in Startup Chat recently, and someone mentioned how at her company of 30 they use a simple Google doc. No fancy software, just a simple shared doc.

This surprised me. For a team of 30 I envisioned them using some purpose built tool with a few extra features, not a simple Google doc.

But then I remembered something Justin Jackson said a while back in his post, we are not normal people. He was at his barbers, dreaming of how he could improve their scheduling setup. How he could build out a new software solution that would bring the hairdressers archaic paper system into the twenty-first century.

It turns out, his barber had already tried out a bunch of software solutions, likely from similar conversations had with other tech minded clients, and they were all horrible.

One particular point of Justin’s story stands out. His barber said this:

"All the software I’ve tried just gets in the way."

This is key. Software, far from being a knight in shining armour, was actually overkill for him. An unnecessary burden. It was a more complicated process than simply looking at a paper calendar and writing directly on that. It wasn’t a problem he was motivated to solve because the core of the pain point was solved in the simplest way possible.

Any software solution might make gains on the periphery but the core issue was already solved for the one that mattered. The barber was the one who used the system and who decided how their businesses money would be spent, and they were not motivated to fix this problem because they didn’t see it as a problem.

The same goes for my company goal tracking idea. There could be some gains made by using a purpose built piece of software, but the core task of logging goals and being able to view them was already solved. It’s solved by whiteboards and it’s solved by shared docs.

The problem, in my mind, was getting everyone on the same page. The issue with this idea was that the tools they were using already did this, quite literally.

In development terms, all I was looking to create was a glorified CRUD. Create goals. Read goals. Update goals. Delete goals. Whiteboards or shared docs are the best solution for this for a lot of companies.

This is a common problem. The problem entrepreneurs have with problems. As creative entrepreneurial types, we’re always on the lookout for problems we can solve. Processes we can improve. Shiny things we can create.

It’s easy to try and create systems and solutions that are complex and beautiful but people just want the easiest, simplest way to get the job done. Often that’s using a tool they already have and know how to use. A new shiny interface isn’t a plus, it’s a hindrance.

Fred Rivett's face@fredrivett