Learn more about NextFab, our services, and the future of making.
A place with all the tools you need for your creativity and hands-on-learning.
Have you ever had that “Eureka!” moment?
Perhaps a new product idea comes to you in a flash of insight. Or you’ve created something on the fly to solve a problem and realized it had potential.
If you’re like most people, you want to get started on hardware prototyping right away. You can see it so clearly in your mind — you just need the resources to create and market your great idea.
However, this is often where early product development gets off track. By falling in love with the product, you inadvertently eliminate other solutions that could solve the problem more effectively.
Let’s take a step back together.
We’ll show you why it’s important to start with the problem, not the solution, and how to build a concise problem statement that sets you up for success.
Step 1 – Isolate the Problem from the Solution
In most cases, your initial product idea stems from solving a problem for a set of people, starting with yourself. It’s often the seed of a great product, but not the final solution.
Here’s an example:
“In my busy hospital environment, it’s often difficult to quickly locate specialized mobile equipment, especially in time-critical situations. What if there was a “tag” device that would allow medical staff to locate and track this equipment with an app on their phones using Bluetooth or WiFi like indoor GPS?”
This sounds like a great idea, right? But there are a few shortcomings:
By focusing on the “tag” device idea, you might be missing out on better solutions. While step one gives you the spark of insight, step two offers a broader perspective.
Step 2 – Research the Problem
A great product problem statement focuses on the users and their needs – not on product specifications or business outcomes. Therefore, your next step is to:
Using our prior example, you could:
Step 3 – Write Your Problem Statement
Now that you have a better understanding of the problem, write down the who, what, when, and why.
Let’s bring it all together:
Hospital staff needs a better way to efficiently locate specialized equipment because current asset tracking methods are insufficient to locate them in time-critical situations.
Naturally, you’ll have more detail from your research. However, the goal is to have a clear, concise problem statement throughout your product development process. It should be top of mind in everything you do.
Benefits of a Problem Statement
Not only does the statement capture your understanding of the problem, but it also:
Just be careful not to reverse-engineer your problem statement to match your product description. This is a common misstep — and a good reason to be part of a maker’s community, where you can get diverse perspectives.
Case Study – Circalux Proximity Sensing LED Light
Created by three medical students at Thomas Jefferson University, Circalight is a smart LED nightlight that provides healthy, sleep-friendly illumination. Meant for hospital settings, they adjust in brightness depending on the user’s proximity, typically a healthcare professional.
Circalux partnered with NextFab’s Hardware Product Development team to build a next-generation prototype of the Circalight.
So, how did Circalux get from a great idea to hardware prototype development?
Lorenzo Albala, Founder & CEO of Circalux, was inspired by one of his professors, Dr. George Brainard, who identified this lighting issue on the international space station. He was also inspired by seeing his young cousins suffer from poor sleep and the attention problems it caused.
Rather than diving into prototype development, Albala conducted extensive research at a hospital just outside of Philadelphia, Nemours Dupont Children’s Hospital. His team surveyed healthcare providers, parents of patients and the patients themselves to understand the impact of repetitive harsh fluorescent lighting on their lives — in the hospital and at home.
Their problem statement could be summarized as:
This problem statement defines solutions, but it doesn’t limit them. It also keeps Albala focused on where and how to best use resources.
Where to go from here?
Need help defining your problem statement? Ready to move forward into hardware product development? At NextFab, we specialize in assisting startups in early-stage product development. If you have an idea for a prototype or want advice on the next steps with getting your hardware product into production, book a call with our product development team HERE.