February 7

Sammy the Solutioner is a Villain of Chaos



Happy Valentine's day! Today's question is who and what do you love?

Do you love the problems you solve for your customers, or do you love the solution you created?

If you are Sammy the Solutioner, your love is all about your solution … and if you are a customer of Sammy's, well I am sorry because your true root problems are likely to get lost in translation somewhere along the line. This is because the most common problem here is that you must fall in love with the problem and the audience who bears that problem, not your solution.


How and why does this happen?

Well, first off, Sammy is most known for playing a card such as this "(hey prospect) let me show you my awesome solution … do you think this will work for you?" At face value this seems innocuous. Yet it causes artificial green lights every time – which Sammy uses to fuel support for moving forward with the solution they crafted.

It is artificial because the prospect or customer is put into a lose-lose position. Most people don't want to cause conflict. However, you have established a conversation that already has injected bias into the conversation. The bias is that you believe you have a great solution. Therefore they fear that sharing any feedback that runs counter to your opinion will create a conflict. Thus they are not incentivized to share their unbiased feedback. Additionally, when you start off the conversation with a your solution, you missed out on an opportunity to validate that they are suffering from the problem that you are aiming to solve – and that they perceive it has a 10x problem.

Imagine you are talking to your grandmother when you are performing customer or product discovery. In that their intention will be to boost your ego and always tell you that your ideas are great. As such, it is a great idea to downplay your involvement in creating the solution. You are just the facilitator. It can be even better if you have two options so that they can compare and contrast what they like and what is missing.

The root issue of jumping right to sharing the solution is often that Sammy suffers from the fallacy of SWAP (Solutioning Without A Problem). This means that they perceive a potential problem in the world and start to solve for that problem without really understanding the pain scale of the problem for consumers, they don't understand the competitive landscape, and don't know if consumers are ready for this solution.

This happens because Sammy is notorious for jumping past critical discovery steps in the productization process. Sure, they may generally understand the customers issues, yet they don't understand the nuances of the atmosphere surrounding the problem.

That is a fatal error because the richness of a high growth product lies in understanding the entire ecosystem surrounding the problem. Meaning that you need to fully understand the problem space and solution space before you enter the productization space. More on this in a moment.

Check the basis for you driving your team to codify the solution? Is it that you have customer validated signal that you have the right solution concept? Or is it that you need to start seeing revenue flowing in fast. If it is the later, then brace yourself for a product that is going to fall short of potential.

Sammy also may have fallen into this trap due to following the bad advice of "go scratch your own itch".

Unfortunately, this used to be conventional wisdom. It was believed that if you were your own client then you could short circuit many of your customer discovery work. The reality is that very few who take this advice can remain objective. This leads to less than optimal productization results.

Remember that you are not the market. You represent a single data point. You must perform customer discovery (Problem Space) and solution discovery (Solution Space) to be able to draw out the nuances needed to create an effective productization angle.

Have you ever heard something like: "This is the right solution. They just aren't smart enough to understand it." or "Customers don't know what they want until we give it to them."

Sammy is not the only one to play this card. And what is unfortunate here is that occasionally, this logic is actually correct. Rarely will consumers be able to identify a revolutionary approach to a problem because they just have not seen what is possible and can't imagine sitting behind the wheel with this innovation.

However, many optimistic leaders hide behind this shelter to justify their solution. This mindset creates an echo chamber of "it will be because we say it will be … and they will thank us for it". This optimistic blinders can certainly create a bias for action and yet when unchecked can lead to very poor traction.

No succinct advice can be provided for identifying when this mindset is on point and when it is not. Yet, what is certain is that if you do not really understand the problem you are trying to solve and have a clear validated need before you begin to solution, then you are far more likely to be building your solution on the wrong foundational mindset.

You always want to ensure that your solutions are backed by a strong understanding of the problem.

Corrective Advice Recap

  • You must fall in love with the problem, not the solution.
  • Ensure that you are orienting around 10x problems (as graded by your customers and prospects).
  • Be cautious of doubling down on poor traction without gaining a deeper understanding of the problem.
  • Make sure that you are performing voice of customer discovery.
  • Don't cut corners when you are scratching your own itch – you are not the market.
  • Don't solution without a validated market problem – one that will have economic success.


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