Problem Solving: “You’ve Seen This Before”
Bazaarvoice Product VP on Problem Solving (Part 3)
When product managers face a new issue, it’s easy to default to thinking that you need to start from scratch. As you can imagine, this is not ideal for a number of reasons. First, problem-solving takes time – and breaking down every issue from square one is simply not possible.
Most importantly, every product manager should rely on their experience to guide decision-making in the present. There’s a reason why your professors or mentors will often say “there’s no substitute” for experience. Simply put, you can take stock everything you’ve learned to break down new problems into components. As a result, you’re able to tackle issues with a fresh perspective that is rooted in proven results.
The question we should all ask during problem-solving exercises is “where have I seen this before?”
That said, this isn’t limited to your own career experiences or other examples from direct competitors. Oftentimes, the best references that you can utilize for inspiration come from different industries. Now, you may be asking – what can I learn from an industry that has nothing to do with my day-to-day? The answer lies in needing to break free from the “product bubbles” that can limit our ability to think outside the box.
For example, Henry Ford’s inspiration for the modern assembly line did not come from his factory floor. Instead, he observed the way in which meatpacking factories prepared finished products. As a result, Ford successfully applied the “rotating hooks” approach to building the efficient assembly line that is synonymous with the Model T.
That said, it’s important to realize that inspiration for problem-solving can just “show up” unexpectedly. In other words, there will be moments or flashes of random inspiration that come from reading books / watching movies / listening to music. However, this is not to suggest that you should lock yourself in an “ideation” room and just wait for the ah-hah moment. Instead, the key is preparing for solutions to arise from any number of sources.