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Part 2: Making sense of early problem discovery conversations

by Menia~ an Auxilia member


This is apart of a series of articles that explore the various steps entailed in product development in going from idea to product to launch.



In the previous article, I explored how your idea can help you deep-dive and understand the real problem behind it through finding and connecting with your potential customers. In this article I will explore how you can use these conversations to visualise your personas, make sense of the information you gathered, using an affinity wall, and defining a problem statement.

By now, you have probably had tens of conversations with people, listened and connected to their problems, aspirations and goals and your mind may just has started creating connections and seeing patterns. Now, let’s help the brain achieve this in a more structured way. I have used a couple of tools in the past to help me with that, but an old-school wall full of post-its will also do the trick.



 

Identifying and visualizing your personas Just before I dive into defining the problem statement, this is a good time to make a quick check on the people you identified as your potential customers. It’s usually a good practice to focus on 2–3 personas to help you maintain focus as you define and build your MVP. In some cases, there may be more stakeholders involved and you may need to have a few more personas defined, but make sure this is to help you focus. Visualising the personas you identified at the start of your journey and validated through your conversations, will make it easier for you to connect with them, understand their needs and keep reminding you, who you are building a product for and why. Below is an example template I adjusted from Miro that has worked well for me in the past.


Persona template informed by and created in Miro

I have also used Gallery view from Airtable to visualise personas in the past, because it helped me connect the personas with the people I was gathering feedback from, at later stages of product development.



 

Defining your problem statement

Using the notes you may have kept over the various conversations you had (or your awesome memory), you can start writing post-its that relate to quotes from your discussions, your own observations or interpretations, factual statements or anything else you think is useful. Don’t forget to include who mentioned this, so you can refer to the conversation if needed but also make sure you are covering a wide range of people.

Investigate the information you have and start grouping the ones that look similar.

Add an extra post-it on top of them with a short summary or description.

If you end up with too many short descriptions (green stickers below), you can investigate whether they, in turn, can also be grouped under another short description (yellow stickers below).

Note: I did something similar in the past with less structure but recently learnt this is called an affinity wall and the suggested structure is very helpful. I came across this in a course in Coursera: Understanding user needs.



This is what a simple structure of an affinity wall could look like.


This process of going through your notes and observations from the customer interviews you performed and structuring them will help you recognise patterns, identify underlying issues and surface the main problems and needs at the top. Using this information, you can define or update your problem statement by identifying the most painful problems that your personas feel need a solution.

“A problem statement is a concise description of an issue to be addressed or a condition to be improved upon. It identifies the gap between the current (problem) state and desired (goal) state of a process or product.”

As defined in wiki. An example of a problem statement could be:

As a parent who has 3 children, I need to be able to track and share our family activities and chores on a weekly basis because I struggle to keep up with them, running late or missing some activities. However, I would like this to be helpful, rather than an extra activity I need to keep track of.


<drum rolls> Solution time is finally here! <drum rolls>

Yes, you heard that right!

Now that we have defined, validated and visualised our personas, identified and validated their pain points and defined our problem statement we are ready to go into solution mode.

Prepare the creative side of yourself, identify a group of diverse team members or trusted friends and get ready to embark on another journey of excitement, unlimited imagination, collaboration and discovery.

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Menia is an active member of Auxilia- a group of women, passionate about increasing funding to Female founders. Menia is driven to create impact — through strong teams, products that deliver value and investments.


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