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Love your problem

Finding answers in our questions
By Trish Barbato

Revera is committed to helping improve the aging experience by investing in innovations targeting older adults. Trish Barbato, Senior VP of Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, is driving Revera’s focus on innovation.

I have met a lot of people with million-dollar ideas but I have met a lot fewer people who are able to turn their idea into a million dollars. Those who are successful are not so because their idea is better, but because their idea is based on an identified problem that someone is willing to pay to have solved—they have the needs of their customer in mind.
“The next time someone comes to you with a problem, try to hold back from offering solutions and instead, spend more time exploring the problem.”
Here’s a great example. We met a company several years ago that created technology to match home care customers with caregivers. Over time they realized there was a much bigger problem to solve – helping companies like ours find staff to fill sick days and other absences. Based on customer input, they adapted their technology to solve this bigger problem. By focusing on the customer problem, they were able to enhance their solution.

If you have a million-dollar idea but haven’t been able to figure out how to bring it to market, here’s a tip. Don’t think about your idea as a solution, but instead spend time thinking about your potential customer and what they are experiencing, feeling and needing. Here’s a real world example, if you want your teenager off her phone, what benefit would your teenager have if she was off the phone? More time for conversation? More quality time with family? More engaging meal times? We can restate the problem from “How do I get my teenager off the phone?” to “How might I help my teenager feel more connected and supported by our family?” The second problem statement evokes much more empathy and opens the door to new solutions.

This rethinking of a problem is the basis of design thinking. You can use this approach to take your million-dollar idea to market, and you can use it in everyday life. The next time someone comes to you with a problem, try to hold back from offering solutions and instead, spend more time exploring the problem. Ask the person open-ended questions such as ‘tell me more about what happened’, ‘how did the situation affect you?’ The deeper exploration of the problem will often unearth insights that can be revealing and help the person see the problem in a new light. This expands the possible solutions.

Anyone who wants to change the world needs to fall in love with the problem, not their solution. And if you want to be a force for change, remember to start with more questions than answers.
Trish Barbato
By Trish Barbato
Trish Barbato is Senior VP, Innovation & Strategic Partnerships for Revera Inc. Ms. Barbato is responsible for driving a culture of innovation across Revera and for establishing Revera’s global presence as a preeminent, industry-leading senior’s innovation partner and investor.