I was recently listening to the Office Hours podcast with Carrie Dils and guest Chris Lema. There was something Chris said that really resonated with me. When listening to your customer’s narrative and the problems they’re facing, we really need to take time to “marinate in the problem space.”
For me, this means I need to break the habit of brainstorming possible solutions immediately after hearing the initial problem.
I thought I was supposed to be brainstorming solutions?
I’ve personally found this to be a very difficult habit to break. A big part of my job is knowing what options are currently available for particular problems. Also, one of the biggest appeals for many of our new clients is that we have previously developed solutions for other clients to address very similar problems to the ones they’re facing.
So, when joining initial client calls, I always thought part of my role was to be brainstorming ideas as I was hearing the problems. However, if I’m thinking about potential solutions am I completely hearing and understanding the problem?
A very wise counselor once shared that when he is counseling someone on a tough life issue and gets to the point where he thinks he totally understand what he needs to address, he takes five more minutes and asks five more questions. He said he is always shocked how often that extra “marinating” turns up something that was much deeper than he was going to address.
It costs us more in the long run
No matter what, we’re committed to doing everything possible to deliver an end product that our clients are excited about.
Even though we may save a lot of time at the onset of a project jumping straight into “solution mode”, it will inevitably mean there will be changes or missed features that will need to be addressed further down the line. And addressing these things further down the line will always take longer to implement than if we had accounted for them from the start.
So what does it really mean?
“Marinating in the problem space” means we take the time to fully hear and understand the problems being described. It means we take time to narrate the full story surrounding the problem and how other parts of the business can impact (or be impacted by) these particular problems.
This gives us the ability to ask better and smarter questions. It means we can ensure from the start we’re proposing better and fuller solutions for our clients.
Rubber meeting the road
The benefits of this approach became very evident to us on a recent proposal. The problems being described were straightforward, very similar to the majority of problems described by our web development clients.
However, there were a couple of phrases we kept hearing which we knew needed to be taken into account when providing a proposal (our solution).
- “Spread thin”
- “We’re all wearing too many hats”
We needed to marinate on those statements and really consider the implications for the business on a day-to-day basis. Our typical proposal, while being a solution for their stated problems, would have exacerbated those feelings of being overwhelmed with their current responsibilities.
The big takeaway… spend plenty of time feeling the pain of the problem. Marinate in that space. This takes self control and diligence but it is so worth it in the end! Think of the wisest people you know, they typically ask many questions and really seek first to understand before they offer counsel.