How the Best Entrepreneurs Find Simple Solutions to Complex Problems
Here's why it can pay not to overthink every challenge.
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Entrepreneurs are different than other problem-solvers. They have a knack for coming up with unique solutions that transform lives and industries. Brands like Uber and Airbnb are just two examples of how entrepreneurial thinking can transform daily activities.
What many people overlook when they evaluate these and other entrepreneurial successes is that while the problems they solve may appear quite complex at first glance, the actual solutions are relatively simple. By training themselves to provide an easy-to-understand solution to the problems others face, successful entrepreneurs are set up to make a lasting impact on the world.
The Desire for Simplicity
Our natural desire is to find simple solutions for our problems, yet our own personal biases and outside influences can make even simple problems seem difficult to solve on our own. This desire for an easier way of doing things can have a powerful influence on our perception of information, branding and more. A 2012 case study by Google found that website visitors consistently rated simple sites as more visually appealing than websites with a more complex design. Websites that fit the expected "industry mold" were even more highly rated. Why the difference? The successful sites delivered information in a concise manner and played off users's past experiences to appeal to their cognitive fluency.
Related: What Smart Entrepreneurs Know About Problem-Solving
Many startup users find simple solutions by challenging commonly held opinions and focusing on the facts. As author and entrepreneur Nat Eliason explains in a blog post, "A priori reasoning is when you take premises, rules, axioms, fundamental truths, mental models and other principles that are inarguable, or very certain truths, and reason out a solution based on logical deduction. It requires building conclusions off of what you know to be true, instead of relying on opinions or assumptions."
Following this thought process helps entrepreneurs find meaningful, workable solutions. The next step, of course, is to put these idea into action.
"Just because the end result is simple for the user doesn't mean you don't have to put in the effort to design it properly," Benjamin Eberle, founder and CEO of Topo Solutions, recently explained to me in an email interview. "In supply management, we learned that replacing manual monitoring, inspecting and analyzing suppliers and sub-suppliers with a digital, data-powered solution could help companies reduce expenses between 30 and 70 percent. Plus, these programs are simple for the end user. Granted, that doesn't make programming and testing any easier, as you still have to put in the work on the back end."
These sentiments play into a common misconception that derails many would-be entrepreneurs. A simple solution won't necessarily be easy to implement. Successful entrepreneurs understand that they will still need to put in the hours to ensure that their product or service delivers the desired solution to the customer.
Execution Is Everything
While the work required to craft a new solution is hardly easy, the end result must gain traction with buyers. The way to do that is to reduce the complexity users already face in their day-to-day lives. Twitter, for example, didn't initially offer the ability to include hashtags, tag someone in a reply or retweet another post. Instead, these features were only added in accordance with the users's preferences and activities, a system that kept the platform simple and helped it continue to deliver on its early goals and promises.
Related: The Importance of Problem-Solving When Building a Business
At their core, many of the most successful businesses today have achieved their status because of strong execution on a simple problem-solving concept. Netflix lets users watch TV and movies over the internet instead of needing to buy DVDs. Amazon revolutionized the idea of buying products on your computer instead of in a store. These solutions themselves are simple, but what has helped these companies succeed while competitors have failed is an ability to consistently deliver a quality user experience. At the end of the day, that's what makes a "solution" truly simple.
A simple solution may not always be easy to develop and deliver to customers. A problem-solving software may require countless hours of programming, debugging and testing before it is ready for launch. But by creating an end product or service that is easy for customers to adopt, you can provide a solution with lasting impact.