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Innovations that Solve Market Problems

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  • Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success.  Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

problem, solution

It’s great when companies challenge their teams to develop innovations, but innovation should be about more than unfocused development time. It should solve problems in a new and unique way. Here are some problem-solving innovations that I admire.

problem, solution
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Product: Mailbox

Persona: Business person on the go

Problem: When checking my inbox on the road, some emails get lost in the shuffle.

Solution: Mailbox isn’t about the reading and replying you do from your desktop. It’s about curating and triaging to reach “Inbox Zero.” You decide whether to reply, file it, trash it or be reminded later when you’re working on email from a better work environment. My favorite option: the coffee cup, which will bring a message back tomorrow morning.


Product: The Nest Learning Thermostat

Persona: Energy-conscious consumer

Problem: There isn’t an easy, automatic way to control the temperature in my house.

Solution: You can do that with your thermostat—or can you? I saw a great picture showing a brand-name thermostat with a one-and-a-half page “how-to” sheet taped next to it. It really hurt the aesthetic. The Nest actually learns the temperatures you like and builds a schedule that helps you save energy. It also confirms that you connected your wiring correctly, hops on the Internet to coordinate with the weather forecast in your area, and sends you an email once a month with details on your usage and tips for improvement. And they even included a screwdriver in the box! Nice.


Product: Dropbox

Persona: The wired professional

Problem: Moving files between multiple devices can be cumbersome.

Solution: Have all your important files with you everywhere on every device. We’ve had this problem ever since we had more than one computer, previously solving it with floppy discs, then memory sticks and then shared network folders. Synchronization between devices just works.


Product: Shopify

Persona: Small online retailer

Problem: I want to set up an online shop, but I’m not a programmer.

Solution: Shopify does one thing and does it very well. In just a few minutes, you can set up an ecommerce website. You don’t need to know programming; just set up your catalogs, fill in some parameters and you’re ready to start taking money.

And it’s forever changed the way I think of customization. All products should be as easy to customize as Shopify. Just fill out a simple form—company name, tax ID, Google analytics code, your company logo or graphic—and voila, all your customizations are implemented.


Product: crowdSPRING

Persona: Small business owner on a budget

Problem: I need a logo or a website, but I don’t have the skills to do it myself.

Solution: crowdspring offers design as a service: logo and site design from thousands of creative professionals around the world. People who need design don’t know designers; people who know design don’t have easy access to buyers. crowdSPRING brokers the two, while protecting both with a safe environment for both buyers and creatives alike.

Author

  • Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success.  Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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