SXSW: Start with the problem, not the technology

SXSW: Start with the problem, not the technology

One key consistent theme that is emerging across SXSW seminars, regardless of perspective or topic, is starting with the problem, defined in both human and commercial terms, rather than with technology, or indeed, innovation for innovations sake. 

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

Norman Winarsky, the vice president of Ventures at SRI, a large and highly prestigious innovations organisation (responsible for Siri, amongst other innovations capitalised in market at over $20billion) used the language of starting with a "real market pain point", rather than a manufactured one to suit a technology or commercial goal. Technology therefore became part of the solution.

In the case of Siri, this was that people find clicking through web pages to find information taxing, and therefore drop off at approximately 20% per click. Both a human and a commercial issue. They set out to answer 'How do you make it possible for people to be able to access web pages without losing them through clicks?'  Siri was born.

Both Jennifer Saenz, the strategy director at Frito Lay and Shiv Singh, the global head of digital at PepsiCo,  when discussing the topic of crowd sourced based marketing campaigns, repeatedly referenced how crucial it is to start with the business problem before entering into communications planning, particularly into anything involving participation or crowd sourcing. The type of interaction you create will change depending on your problem. 

Take the Frito Lay crowd sourced ‘Flavour’ Super Bowl campaign. This likely over came problems pertaining to apathy causing a  lack of trial for new flavour line extensions, (a classic issue for FMCG brands) despite their existing core consumer group that often fantasise about different chip flavours. How could they unlock this passion to overcome broader market apathy? 

This is very different to the interaction Rent the Runway engenders, who ask for social proof of how their dresses make you look and feel, unlocking issues pertaining to changing behaviours around renting, rather than buying dresses. 

So, while the world uses technology to innovate forward at pace, some old truths still apply.

One of those remains starting with your problem.

While seemingly obvious, it is probably a safe assumption that if these leaders felt it necessary to consistently make the point, starting with a well defined problem is consistently lacking.

As we hurtle forward, it pays to keep up to scratch on these old basics.