Within the realm of entrepreneurship, people have long had many different ideas of how one becomes an entrepreneur. There is debate over if entrepreneurs are born or if they are made. Additionally, the same can be said for creativity. Are people born creative? Are they born artists or are they taught these skills and nurtured into success? What happens to this natural creativity is that we gain the fear of being wrong and failing.

While creativity and innovation are key to entrepreneurship, what lays at the heart of it all is the problem. Without the problem, there would be no need for a solution. The popular quote “fall in love with the problem, not the solution” relates to Thomas Edison’s invention of the lightbulb. He had said I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work. And this love for the problem is what drives entrepreneurs to make a solution to solve it.

Before finding a solution though, you need to identify a problem to solve. This strategy is called opportunity recognition, which is defined by NFTE as “the practice of seeing and observing a problem as an opportunity to create a solution.” Every item we use in our day-to-day life started out as one version and has consistently improved and changed over time. Think about the phone or computer you are reading this on. They don’t look the same as they did five or ten years ago. And that’s because someone looked at it, saw an opportunity to improve it, and did so.

There are many different methods to look for this opportunity recognition, and a popular technique is the “Jobs to be Done Theory”, coined by Tony Ulwick. This theory, simply put, identifies a problem, or task that needs to be done, as a “job” and a solution as something to “hire” to do the job. This changes how we perceive needs that remain unmet. Needs can now be a metric used to determine success in getting a job done. This also changes competitors, as they aren’t necessarily a similar style product, but really are a product being used as a solution for the same problem. An example situation could be eating breakfast while driving to work. The problem or job in this situation, is that you are hungry, and you need something to eat while you drive to work. You might hire a banana, or coffee, or a donut, granola bar, or even a candy bar to get the job done. These food items aren’t typically seen as competitors until put in this situation to be hired to fill your hunger. After the functional component comes the social and emotion needs of the consumer. Will they feel tired or sick after eating candy for breakfast? Is a donut too messy? What if they decide not to eat anything on the way? This changes the customer segment from being based as a demographic to being based on a common problem in which customers struggle differently to solve. It’s through this identification and process that we can better understand and predict the success of a solution.

Founded to create customized solutions to educational challenges, The EdVenture Group has identified many jobs that need to be done. Each of their programs offer customer-specific educational programs and expertise to be hired across Appalachia and the nation. They know that while the needs and problems in their communities can be similar, the competitors can be different and there is no blanket solution for all. Seeing jobs to be done in schools brings together a passionate team dedicated to innovatively solving these common problems that customers experience differently. 

By Cameron Keefe