Sometimes they just throw it away.
Tristian Kromer talks about stubbed toes vs broken toes. Diana Kander talks about headaches vs migraines. The smart money seems to concur that the "right" way to solve a problem for a customer, is to make sure the problem exists in the first place. Most ideas are solutions, and most of the time these solutions go looking for a problem that simply does not exist. It happens more than you might think. The notion of doing customer development to identify if the customer in your mind really has this problem, is probably the most important and the first step any entrepreneur should take on their new journey.
If those interviews are done correctly it should be fairly easy to fold the hand and change your problem hypothesis or customer hypothesis if you learn that the problem simply doesn't exist.
The more challenging scenario, I have found, is when the entrepreneur identifies a huge problem, BUT the consumer doesn't know they have this problem. This is a classic number 1/5 on the early adopter scale and can cause an entrepreneur to believe that the only thing separating him from a $50 million exit is $100 million in marketing budget. Nevertheless, this is still an easier hand to lay down than a 3 or 4 out of 5 on the scale. A true early adopter, and the only person to count as a "Yes" in your initial CustDev interviews meets ALL FIVE CRITERIA...
- They have the problem
- They KNOW they have the problem
- They have hacked together their own solution (and it's not good enough)
- They are actively LOOKING for a superior solution
- They have currency to invest in your solution and are ready and willing to "participate"
This past weekend I was honored to work with an experimental team for a certain mail delivery company. One of the problems they were trying to solve was that of junk mail. Seems obvious. Seems like a universal problem. Seems like their core competency. Seems like an enormous waste. Seems like a drain of everything from paper to time to fuel. The team validated that people have the problem and know they have the problem. Seems like the perfect opportunity to build a real time, semantic web app that geobarcodes your mail reading habits and automatically learns what to send you and what to cancel while cyber filtering the physical mail in a new vaporizer mailbox that converts the junk mail to potting soil.
Yet, the simpler solution "I just throw it away" seems to do the trick just fine for the majority of people.
Sometimes people just throw their junk mail in the garbage. It's annoying. But it's annoying for a second. It's a stubbed toe or a headache (if it's even that bad).
Believe it or not, some complicated app to solve the problem would be more of a broken toe or a migraine than the problem itself. Remember this, if you have a solution and you are out there looking for a problem... sometimes it's ok to throw it away (better that than your investors' money and your team's time).