Understanding someone else’s problems is super hard.
We can hear what’s being told to us, but still not grasp the underlying root problems.
Last week, I talked a bit about an approach to discovering customers, which involved interviewing a bunch of folks about their issues surrounding debt. After each interview, I relistened to the recording to understand what had really been discussed.
What were the real pains? What were the common threads in each of these discussions?
I was getting a clearer picture of how people approached debt, but it was still foggy. I needed a more detailed viewpoint since there’s so much consumer pain related to debt.
Enter the 5 Whys!
5 Whys is an exercise where you propose a problem and simply ask “why?”.
Usually, you’ll have more than one answer to the question. From there, you continue asking “why?” for each answer, until you’ve asked “why” 5 times for each problem.
Root problems end up looking quite different than the surface issues. An example chain:
I have stomach pain
I drank too much last night
I did those shots at the end of the night
I have trouble saying no to friends
Aha! Maybe a little discipline and more confidence saying no would lead to less future stomach pain? ;)
I did this same thing for my pain points. For each broad assumption, I drew a tree five levels deep.
People have anxiety about loan payments
People have no visibility into the cost of debt
I started seeing much clearer problem sets. Some examples:
- Risks are more expensive with too much debt. The more debt we take, the less we have control of our destiny.
- We don’t make enough income. Many skills don’t translate into market value.
- We don’t have time or interest to read every loan detail. These details are purposely confusing and it’s hard to determine how expensive our debt is.
- Most of us are bad at dealing with money and choose to ignore it as a way of coping.
- For loan servicers, clarity in advice means less profit, which means bad advice is given to their customers.
- Loan servicers have little reason to invest in better user experiences for their customers.
In my case, the 5 Whys exercise created more questions than it answered. However, I’ve developed cleaner statements to test in the market. That’s what I needed!
Next week, I’ll be discussing how I attempted to invalidate these assumptions using a series of “micro MVPs”.
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