Start With the Problem

blog Oct 13, 2022


By Jeff Henderson

Ten years ago, a few friends and I launched a church trying to solve a problem: Many people are more familiar with what the church is against rather than what the church is for. Imagine my surprise at how that simple statement would inspire churches around the world to rally around the same problem in their communities.

David Salyers, one of the original marketing executives at Chick-fil-A, often told me when I worked with him, “A problem well-defined is half-solved.” The challenge for many organizations is that they’ve forgotten the original problem which created the spark that led to their start-up.

This is why we must be ruthless in protecting against “insider-itis,” which is seeing the organization from our point of view instead of those we are trying to serve. Insider-itis is a word I made up that spell check doesn’t like. It’s a malady that, if unchecked, grows in any organization. For example, the natural tendency of any organization, especially those that have experienced a lot of success, is self-preservation. We protect the ground we gained instead of seeking new ground; we defend the past instead of exploring new ways to solve the initial problem.

Over time, organizations start playing defense, not offense. When this happens, the goal inevitably becomes the survival of the business. And yet, if the goal is to stay in business, you won’t—not in today’s world, with multiple choices and opportunities for customers to pursue.
Instead, the goal should be to solve a problem for customers. As we solve their particular problem, they see we are truly for them. And when customers see this, they return the favor.
The reason many organizations stall out is because of the complexity that emerges when other opportunities, which seemed good at the time, win out. We end up pursuing opportunities that may not address the problem of the customer. 

Great innovation rarely starts with the idea. Great innovation starts with the problem.
In my book, Know What You’re FOR, I encourage leaders to take a vision inventory. A vision inventory is a check-in to see how much vision is on the shelves of the culture of the organization, and how that vision is being communicated and shared.

(Side note: This is why the language of an organization is so important. A vision inventory allows you to see and hear that language. What a team says about the vision, and how they describe the problem the organization is trying to solve, are two key issues for leaders to understand. Too often, we assume clarity, which, over time, can be a fatal mistake for organizations.) 

A simple but helpful vision inventory involves two questions: 

  • What problem do you think are we trying to solve?
  • What do you think we want to be known for?

This week, take a moment to do a vision inventory. You can do it by walking around, or you can do it virtually. If you’re the boss, make sure the team knows this isn’t a pop quiz. You need their help making sure the organization is remaining true to the vision and the problem or problems it is trying to solve for customers.

Be curious, not defensive.

After all, the problem isn’t a problem. It’s actually the answer.

Stay up-to-date with all our upcoming releases!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from us. Your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.