Your value to your company, to yourself and probably to your family, too, is how well you find and solve problems. There are 7 billion people on this mortal coil and every single one has problems of one sort or another. Just some of them, and I would argue the wealthiest and sometimes the happiest, solve problems — and the bigger the better. Don’t think of having a problem as a bad thing – a problem can be as simple as, “I need to get from point A to point B and I don’t have a car.
This is why I’m an enormous fan of the Uber taxi service and I use it whenever I can. For me, it’s far more than the “what” of Uber and more about the “how.” I’m fascinated by technology and what they’ve done in an incredibly short time blows my disruption-focused mind. Google Maps was the core disruption that allowed me, the Uber customer to say, “Here I am, come pick me up,” disrupting the cab line, the hotel doorman and the taxi dispatcher. But that’s just half the story…
Google Maps also gave the independent vehicle owner the chance to say, “Here I am, and I’ll come get you in 7 minutes, exactly where I know (with a greater certainty than you possess) you are.” This is such a brilliant disruption of a human problem that its ramifications aren’t yet fully realized, but London cab strikes and governments in an uproar show just how much this changes in potentially every city in the world. There are few more common problems than the Point A to Point B problem, other than food, shelter and love (the whole Maslow thing).
Finding problems to solve
So it was a very meta-problem solving morning when my I warmed up for a sales meeting today by taking my unsuspecting Uber driver through a “where is your pain?” and “what are the consequences?” discussion. Turns out he recently received an email from uber warning him that his average scores were lower than other London uber drivers (aside: this is another awesome feature of uber…ratings). I asked a few more questions before helping him to realize he’s not a driver but instead a problem solver and that point A to point B is just the first level of his customer’s needs. We talked about the concurrent problems of his customers and agreed that the following is also true:
- They’re invariably in a hurry
- They are thirsty
- They often forget things in his car
Fantastic…the world rewards problem solvers, sometimes with extra uber stars. From now on, he would ask every customer, “Are you in a hurry?” When they say they are, he will say, “I will get you there as quickly as I can.” Not that he would speed through lights, but that he would reassure them that he was aware of their pain and working to solve it. We talked more and agreed that it would cost him 20p to offer a small bottle of water to his customer but to first say, “Are you thirsty?” (Because you can’t get credit for a problem the customer is unaware of).
Lastly, as his customers left his cab, he would always ask, “Are you sure you have all of your belongings…your cell phone? By asking these three questions, we agreed that he would be solving three problems that are as common as their need to get to a destination. We agreed that this would very likely raise the average of his ratings and help him to compete in a tough, crowded market.
Are you a problem finder?
How many things do you do each day to solve not just the obvious problem of your customer (which can be your boss or your family), but also the next level of challenge? Do you seek out problems and try to understand the consequences? Put yourself in the shoes of someone who depends on what you do and see if you can’t come up with a broader list of their pains and needs. See if you can’t help to solve a bigger problem. I can promise you that you’ll see the rewards.