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Is that the BIGGEST problem?

Lean talks a lot about the problem of “building something no one wants.”

That happens — and it’s totally avoidable for teams who invest in 10-20 hours of customer development — but it’s not actually the BIGGEST problem facing most teams.

The problem isn’t that we build something no one wants. It’s not that we solve non-existent problems.

It’s that we solve not-that-important problems at the opportunity cost of passing by the home runs.

Our brains respond really eagerly to problems that:

  • are very visible
  • have a clear and obvious cause
  • we already have a proposed solution to
  • we have seen in other environments before
  • we can predict when they’ll happen
  • we can make the fastest visible progress on

Sometimes these are THE most important problems we could be tackling. More often, we get sidetracked by these vitamin problems while our antibiotic problems languish.

How do we fix this?

Make a habit of pausing a conversation to say, “wait, is this the BIGGEST problem we could be solving?”

Encourage everyone who works for you to do the same.

When someone on your team calls you out on wasting time on a not-that-important problem, praise them (and stop wasting time on that thing and re-focus).

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