Adam Jiwan, founder of Spring Labs, has three specific ingredients he looks for when starting a company or project: the what, the who and the probability of success.* It’s a simple framework that we can apply anywhere we’re trying to decide “if” or “how to” solve a problem. Here are some basic questions to ask around each variable:
The What: What’s the problem? What are we solving for? Why are solving the problem at all? Are we qualified to ask, let alone solve it? Do we have some insight into its potential solution that others don’t? Defining “what” should help qualify if we have the know-how to engineer an answer to a question. If we can’t clearly define the what, or if the answer is something far from our reach (ex. it’s only solvable with some magical future technology), we can walk away or put the idea on hold.
The Who: Who we need to solve for the what? We are looking for partners with shared values and complementary skills. If the problem requires a tech solution but we’re not a tech person, we need to find someone who can help. It’s critical we note this link between what and who. Knowing what the problem is and not having the right people is useless. Knowing the problem and having the right people covering each other’s blind spots is the goal.
The Probability of Success: What are the odds that if we ask and answer the right question with the right people, that A. We will succeed and B. It will matter? We respect that we can’t know the true odds, but we can estimate how much money, time and life we are willing to dedicate to the solving the problem successfully. If we don’t see the value in the commitment, we should walk away. If we think we can pull it off, we should carefully consider the costs of getting there.
Once we know the what, the who and the probability of success, we get to choose if we want to make it real. It takes a lot of gall to bring a broad vision to life. We often can’t go it alone, and the big ideas – the ones that matter – require the effort of a true team with a unified vision. There’s no shortage of problems to solve. As we notice all of the opportunities around us, we can think in terms of qualifying the questions, qualifying the people we’d need by our side, and qualifying the odds it would be worth investing in to bring the solution to fruition.
Problem-solving is value creation. If we’re willing to find the what, the who, and define the probability of success, we can make some amazing things happen.