How To Solve Problem

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In the end we were right, but throughout the project, as the scope and complexity grew (pro tip: dashboards are a classic “silver burrito” problem), I found myself having to repeatedly remind the team what problem we set out to solve.

Nothing helps reduce scope creep more than coming back to the problem statement and the success metrics.

The product is beautiful and the experiences smooth. A small percentage of travelers give it a shot, and it generally goes OK, however it’s far from the reaction we were looking for.

We iterate a bit, make some incremental improvements, but a few months later we end it and move on.

In the example above, we recognized too late that the real problem we should have been solving was not “travelers want to hang out with other travelers”, but instead, “travelers want to find high quality non-touristy things to do.” Hanging out with other travelers is one solution to this, not the actual problem.

Luckily another team recognized this and ended up launching a much better solution, Airbnb Experiences, a few years later.When you solve your health problem by buying a gym membership, you create new problems, like having to get up early to get to the gym on time, sweating like a meth-head for thirty minutes on an elliptical, and then getting showered and changed for work so you don’t stink up the whole office. This quote does illustrate an important point: before jumping right into solving a problem, we should step back and invest time and effort to improve our understanding of it.What makes it clear to you that this problem needs to be tackled?Sometimes at this step you realize this problem isn’t actually worth prioritizing right now, or that you need to adjust how you think about the problem.You can solve many problems in many ways, but you can also build a beautiful product that solves no problems.Avoid this trap with a few good habits:“Problems are constant in life.That’s the whole point of this exercise, so don’t resist it.There are infinite problems to tackle — your goal is to feel confident that this problem is worth your team’s time right now. This is where you take a shot at describing the solution to the problem. We’re tasked with building out a “social travel” experience for Airbnb travelers.The thinking is that travelers on Airbnb are siloed across the city, and if we make it easier for guests to meet up and do things together, Airbnb trips would be significantly more meaningful.


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