The Rise and the Fall of the Lean Canvas (And Pretty Much All Other templates)
Disclaimer: Lean Canvas and other product development templates are great frameworks for fleshing out your idea and creating the necessary assumptions. We’re not discounting them but rather pointing out that many nuances have to be considered when working with any framework.
All tools that help structure the business model are only that: tools. They shape your thinking, but if you don’t know how to use them, they won’t necessarily yield the expected results.
It’s a long way for an idea to turn into a product specification. Countless websites and software agencies encourage entrepreneurs to fill out the templates. While templates help you understand your idea better and structure it at the beginning, you might forget about their results in later stages. Moreover, if you don’t have much product experience, you might struggle to grasp actionable insight from these templates. Also, the content of the templates you've filled out will change many times along the way.
The solution cul-de-sac
When you come to a vendor with filled templates, you might fall into the trap of coming from the solution space. In other words, you have an idea of what the product should solve without exploring the actual problems of the target audience.
“When you start with a solution, you tell people that this solution is what they need. But you don’t really solve their problems. Starting with a problem lets you stay open to many ideas and approaches. A solution usually evolves, so when you come up with one solution and get fixated on it, you’ll have a hard time creating something else, presumably better. The solution changes, but the problem remains,” says Marta Kwapińska, Product Manager at nomtek.
We suggest coming from the problem space — what problem you want to solve. Talk to your potential customers, figure out their pain points, analyze gaps in processes, and let them understand alternatives to the status quo they have grown accustomed to.
Consider the differences in a solution-oriented mindset vs. problem-oriented mindset.
- You’re focused on one solution. You get attached to your idea, thinking your solution is always the best. This mindset blindfolds you.
- You don’t see your users and their needs.
- You’re not open to innovation.
- You “force” the solution to people, telling them it's what they need. But the solution rarely solves their problems.
- You’re open to many solutions.
- You’re directly working on a user’s problem, so you don’t have to prove anything, except that you’re trying to solve it well.
- You’re working on the problem, so the solution can change, evolve, and adapt.