For decades every presentation be it a startup pitch, a corporate project or a government plan started out with the sacred ‘Problem’ slide, followed by the equally respected ‘Solution’ slide. I’m voting we modify this format, even for worthy problems and solutions.
Let us look at some proposals – We want to educate kids who have poor access to teachers. We offer technologies that allow self paced learning and individual attention. The product launches and fails to create any impact. Consider another domain such as health – a flute like device which when played will instantly decongest the lungs and help lung patients recover. No pills, no side effects, and based on scientific principles of sound frequencies and lung mechanics. All this wonderful science, and yet the adoption is dismal.
Which begs the question – Why are problems and solutions by themselves not good enough? Because, solutions don’t solve problems. People solve or dissolve problems. And, people don’t change because we offer a solution. In reality, some TBD% of any solution involves changing people’s behavior, even a teeny tiny bit. And making that change happen is a problem by itself, and may often have nothing to do with the original problem.
I have a new framework for presenting and evaluating problems and their solutions. For recall purposes, I have named it VIBBHA.
VISION, INSTINCT, BELIEF, BEHAVIOR, HABIT, ACTION.
We describe the VIBBHA world of our customer. The Problem is not a separate piece, but embedded in our description and has multiple facets which now become evident. What does the customer’s instinct tell him to do? Why is the underlying belief so strong? What are the cues in the environment that trigger a behavior, and how do users feel afterwards? Is the action planned or automatic? The problem could be arising due to a habitual action (or inaction) even though alternative solutions have existed.
Similarly, for the Solution piece, describe the new VIBBHA that we enable. Compare the two VIBBHA descriptions and analyze how different they need to be. Inspect where the change is most dramatic. If beliefs or habits need to change, we must gear up for a tougher ride.
Next assume that people will not change. Can our solution be camouflaged in the environment so that it gets picked up, and brings different outcome even though people are doing the same routines? We can wrap it in something familiar, or create a new incentive, or possibly change the source of belief by appealing to role models (celebrities or local heroes). At least we now have a plan that accounts for behavioral problems.
If we cannot crack the VIBBHA piece of any problem-solution pair, we should tell ourselves that we don’t have a solution. I struggled with changing user instincts when I was working with technologies for regional languages. I now use this framework when evaluating consumer facing ideas.
This does not mean that one should reject ideas that require people to change behavior. Ask yourself if the problem is worth solving. If yes, then don’t worry worry about failure. Instead, aim to change people, and take inspiration from the many examples of ‘Yes We Can!”.
As a follow-up to this post, I’ve created a presentation where I walk through VIBBHA and other related frameworks using a simple example.