TLDR: We take a psychological approach to “deconstruct” a problem worth solving. We are trying to bring objective measurement and science to a discipline which thus far, needs experience and art to work well.


This is part of a series:

  1. (this post) Behavioural View of Product Development - Part 1
  2. Behavioural View of Product Development - Part 2
  3. Behavioural View of Product Development - Part 3

“Understand your customers” is an adage that has no parallel. As Makers we get this. But there’s a problem…. its subjective. How do you KNOW you “understand” the customer and her problem?

Fortunately, in behavioural sciences, the aspect of understanding people is deeply studied. We have the likes of academics like Daniel Kahneman (a Nobel Laureate) whose work has been ground breaking, and practical thinkers like Nir Eyal who has shown us the Hooked way.

Here we have tried to collect all the theory and put them together in a set of highly actionable tools, which will help you visualise, validate and finally quantify your understanding of your customers and their problems is.

Here’s our thesis.

What’s The “Problem”

A problem is a multi-dimensional object.

It needs to be defined with the right “attributes”. Without the attributes, its a statement of fact, and not a problem. For example, you may have heard that Dropbox famously solved the problem : “People forget their pen drives”.

No it didn’t !

Dropbox ACTUALLY solved this problem — “people want to SHARE files and are DEPENDENT on their pen drives”.

When you look at a problem this clearly, a product seems hidden right there. This

Let’s deconstruct this word: “Problem”.

  1. It should have an “action” — sharing files
  2. It should have a sucky current solution — need pen drive to share them
  3. It should be valuable — if I forget my drive, I can NOT share the file.
  4. And there’s more …. read on.

Remembering all of this, in an interview (when the customer wants to have that coffee and leave), is really really hard. And most of us get it wrong somehow.

The reason probably is the way we are thinking about this. We have made it extremely “artsy” and not scientific. Definition of “problem”, unfortunately, is subject to multiple interpretations. It doesn’t stop there. There are many tools (eg life in a day of the customer) that help us visualise the problem. But since they tend to be unstructured, everyone treats them with their own convenience. The result is an oft used word which means many different things to many different people.

The Problem Canvas

The Problem Canvas allows you to identify the customer, the problematic action, the improvement areas, the reasons for customer to switch and the risks of not switching, all in a single view.

The Canvas is made up of three sections. You can see them on the top, in white font.

In simple words, its a problem when you can put it like this — “ <customer> does <the action> but cannot (or finds it hard) because of <current friction>”.

  1. The Customer,
  2. The Action, and
  3. The Psychographics of Customer-Actions.

Each of these sections is broken down further into sub-sections, as is clear from the above image. Each sub-section has its own characteristics, and series of Customer Interview questions that can be used to validate your hypothesis. We will get to the details of each section in this blog, but will not be able to cover the Customer Interview questions, yet.

Next Steps

Get into the depth of the Behavioural View of Product Development in parts 2 and 3 here.

Behavioural View of Product Development - Part 2

Behavioural View of Product Development - Part 3