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Sometimes at this step you realize this problem isn’t actually worth prioritizing right now, or that you need to adjust how you think about the problem.That’s the whole point of this exercise, so don’t resist it.
Fast forward to 6 months later when we launch the V1 in San Francisco.
The product is beautiful and the experiences smooth. A small percentage of travelers give it a shot, and it generally goes OK, however it’s far from the reaction we were looking for.
We iterate a bit, make some incremental improvements, but a few months later we end it and move on.
I personally took many learnings away from that experience, but most of all it instilled in me the importance of getting the problem statement right.
Luckily another team recognized this and ended up launching a much better solution, Airbnb Experiences, a few years later.
As I noted in my last post, I firmly believe that nailing the problem statement is the single most important step in solving any problem.Avoid this trap with a few good habits:“Problems are constant in life.When you solve your health problem by buying a gym membership, you create new problems, like having to get up early to get to the gym on time, sweating like a meth-head for thirty minutes on an elliptical, and then getting showered and changed for work so you don’t stink up the whole office.Though many factors contribute to a project’s failure, nothing is more certain to cause a project to fail than a misunderstanding of the problem you are solving.In the example above, we recognized too late that the real problem we should have been solving was not “travelers want to hang out with other travelers”, but instead, “travelers want to find high quality non-touristy things to do.” Hanging out with other travelers is one solution to this, not the actual problem.We often start with great intentions and alignment, but when it counts most — when the work is actually being done — we often don’t hold on to the problem we set out to solve. A number of years ago I remember working on a project where we were building a dashboard for Airbnb hosts.The initial problem we defined and aligned around was reducing host response time —shrinking the average time it took a host to respond to a guest’s message.Your job is to make the best case you can with the data you have. Answer that question and write it down in this section. In my experience the key here is aligning with your designer(s) to figure out how much detail they want and what would be most helpful in the process. The larger and more complex the project, them more likely they are different.Continue refining the problem statement as you learn more. This criteria becomes incredibly important throughout the project because it helps you make decisions and prioritize. Have you ever seen those Chipotle billboards along the highway (pictured below)? Everyone on your team has a unique version of the problem in their heads. Your job is to eradicate this misalignment early and often.Does feature X increase the chances of achieving the goal you set? Ideally this is a specific metric, with a defined goal, that you can easily measure. Ideally it is based on hard data about the opportunity size, investment size, and a heuristic from past experiments. Here is some advice for defining your success criteria: This is pretty self-explanatory. Years ago my co-worker Peter pointed out the trick behind these ads — each of us is picturing our most ideal and delicious ideal burrito inside of that silver burrito. Open up the wrapper and make sure everyone agrees on the burrito inside.Luckily we have a great document from Step 1 that will make your job 10x easier.