What Is My Problem? Learning That Finding a Problem Can Be Just as Hard as Finding a Solution

03/01/2023

In this article, a Moon Mate shares his experience and learning from submitting an idea to Moon Creative’s ILLUMINATE event in February 2023. 


Key Learnings 

  • Identifying problems can be more challenging than finding solutions 
  • Find inspiration by drawing from personal experiences 
  • Recognize lessons from “failures”

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I recently submitted my first business idea to Moon Creative Lab for a pitch event they held in February 2023. However, my idea was not selected to move ahead.

Having worked at Mitsui for 16+ years and over four years at Moon Creative Lab, this was not my first, and definitely not my last, unsuccessful attempt in my career. To some, having an idea not selected by the company you work for might be seen as a failure. Yet, I wouldn’t be quick to label it quite that way because I have gained something even more profound from the experience as a whole. I walked away with something valuable that I will forever take with me moving forward.

What was the key learning I had from my experience? 

"Finding problems can be harder than finding ideas."

So, how did I end up here, thinking about problems instead of solutions? 

How might we make logistics easy for tourists to buy as much as they want?

The inspiration for my idea came from trips to Japan when I saw many tourists buying more than they were able to carry back home. The question, “How might we make logistics easy for tourists to buy as much as they want?” came to me, so I spent time observing and talking to different tourists at the duty-free cashier counter. Almost everyone told me they wouldn't spend more money on shipping and prefer carrying their items for safety’s sake, even when they bought more than they could likely carry. 

I realized from their responses that that was not really an immediate problem to solve, but rather a personal preference. And as a tourist who doesn’t really shop a lot, I don’t share the same pain, so I would have to rely more on others’ perspectives to develop the idea further.

Find ideas from personal experiences 

How might we help senior citizens when they struggle with the evolution of technology?

I wasn’t ready to give up after my first failed attempt at identifying a new business idea. I started thinking back about my own life and couldn’t stop thinking about my parents. During the pandemic when most of the world was working remotely, I remembered how often my parents would contact me just to help them with small technology problems. An app that needed updating on their phone or they couldn’t remember the password to login to their computer, or even how to adjust the size of the font on their screens. I became their technology wingman. Had it not been for me, I don’t think they would have ever had the patience and capability to figure things out themselves. It became quite an annoyance for me, and something I just had to laugh at and complain about with colleagues. Ironically enough, they were also experiencing the same problem more or less with their parents and grandparents! 

This was the moment a lightbulb inside of me turned on. 

I turned my business idea towards “How might we help senior citizens when they struggle with the evolution of technology?” 

I started to investigate by asking my family questions. One of the concerns my parents expressed was that they didn’t feel comfortable being guided by a stranger on their personal cell phones or laptops, which was why they turned to family. That could be a large challenge for any paid services if people are not ready to seek help from outside the family.

So, I changed my thinking and started considering my father who is in his 70s and unable to move as swiftly as he did in his 30s. He is not a person who exercises regularly, so I was worried about his health and couldn’t help but wonder, “How might we encourage senior citizens to exercise more to be healthier?”

How might we encourage senior citizens to exercise more to be healthier?

My mind started down another ideation rabbit hole, but the deadline of idea submission was fast approaching. I wasn’t able to talk to people to better understand their behaviors like I had with my two previous ideas. This made things tough and I felt that the idea I had settled on felt rushed and without much context. 

Time was up. I submitted my idea and hoped for the best. Regretfully yet unsurprisingly, my idea was not selected to move forward to the pitch event. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t bummed, because I was. But instead of shying away from other experiences, I used this as an opportunity to learn why I ended up where I was. 

Recognize lessons from “failures”

I realized that no matter how “good” we think an idea should be, we should never forget the importance of identifying the actual problem that the idea should solve.  

Take my senior citizen exercise idea as an example. Knowing my father is old and not as mobile as he used to be, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that he needed to exercise to be more mobile again – without giving much thought to the problems my father was actually facing. I could have asked, “What limitations does my dad have as a 70-year-old man? What does he struggle doing physically? What about his mental, emotional, and spiritual health could I also investigate?” Questions like these might have helped me look more into what my father actually wants instead of what I think he wants.

My takeaway from this experience is that it’s better to analyze my own problems or ones that I am most familiar with because I’d likely have more insights and motivation to solve them! Rather than seeking outside of yourself trying to find solutions to what you think other people are struggling with, it’s sometimes best to look within yourself and analyze your own problems first to find an idea worth solving. 

Many people have told me “It's very hard to have a great idea,” but when it comes down to creating something new, it's about solving problems, which are more about looking deeper than the surface of just a “great” idea. The hard part is understanding the root of the problem itself. And that can lead to even better ideas. 

So, do you care to join me in finding some interesting and necessary problems worth solving? Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to find out when our next upcoming pitch event and other events will take place. 

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