Fall in Love with the Problem

I was reading a recent article from the folks at Lean Startup and it hit a nerve as began writing up some new ideas for the Running Training Like a Startup (RTLAS) v2.0  The article revisits a long held tenet of product development, “fall in love with the problem, not the solution.” This is similar to, “if all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail.”  In RTLAS v1.0 I describe the importance of deeply understanding both the challenge and the learner as part of the design process.

As someone with a foot both inside and outside the learning industry I often feel torn.  My outside foot telling me that the industry is misaligned and in desperate need of a full reboot.  My inside foot knows many of the talented learning professionals and empathizes with the challenges they face. In fact, in 2010 when I first began writing my Learning Hacks blog to explore the connections between startup techniques and L&D I wrote a post originally titled, “This Industry Needs an Enema.”

That said, judging by the literature, discussions, and personal experience the learning industry is deeply in love with solutions and only friendly with the problems being faced by businesses today. We know have many more tools in our toolbox than just a decade ago.  In fact keeping up with all the tools can be a full-time job. But just as “convert it all to elearning” was a hammer looking at a course catalog of nails, the industry needs to remember that great solutions come from loving the problem. Let’s at least be “friends with benefits” with it.

What are your thoughts?



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