Why you need be seeking Problems instead of Solutions.
We were last talking to Dr. Arlen Meyers on what makes for great entrepreneurs. Most people are not entrepreneurs because we have all been taught to conform to the rules and standards that surround us. However, there are a few group of individuals that break from the norms and are able to see opportunities despite having scarce and uncontrolled resources.
To enter entrepreneurship, we must understand that the journey begins with a certain mindset and attitude. To not be afraid of failure, to learn from them and push forward. We continue our discussion with Dr. Arlen Meyers on entrepreneurial skillsets and the process of innovation through problem seeking.
In this interview learn:
- 5 specific skillsets of great Innovators
- Practical Strategies for Innovation
- Why you need to be problem seeker rather than a problem solver.
- Why doctors have a hard time with innovation
- 2 things that kill ideas and companies
Having the right mindset and passion plays a big part of entrepreneurship. What are specific skillsets that entrepreneurs and innovators have?
There are 5 specific skills that innovators have and continually develop.
- Association: Innovators are good at “Connecting the Dots.” They accumulate information from diverse sources and create pattern maps of innovation that others don’t see. They can extract this information at the right time and apply it under the right condition.
- Observation: They are “Intense Observers” and can spot weaknesses and unmet needs. They are problem seekers. They work with intuitive non-linear processes of innovation, rather than conforming to the linear models surrounding them. They think outside the box.
- Experiment: They try things just to see if they work. As others want to know things will work before they try them. They create assumptions and challenge them with experiments and measure the outcomes.
- Question: Innovators are curious and ask questions, not just seeking an answer, but because they enjoy the process of discovery. They challenge existing assumptions and paradigms asking “What if?” and “Why?”
- Network: They are great networkers and network with others without a precise goal in mind. They like meeting and talking to new people with opposing views and seemingly unrelated interests. This gives them access to a breadth of information and resources more diverse than less innovative people.
Innovations usually erupt from interactions with people that are unlike you that have different worldviews and life experiences. It’s a culmination of gathering seemingly unrelated concepts, ideas, and topics. Finding and analyzing problems, putting everything together, and then building and testing assumptions.
Innovation is always a big part of success. What are some strategies for Innovation?
All you have to do is open your eyes. If you’re a physician or a health professional, there is plenty of opportunity.
Dentists, pharmacists, or nurses working in a healthcare environment see problems everyday in their line of work.
They say to themselves,
“Why doesn’t somebody invent ________.”
“Why is it always done this way? It’s easier or better to do it this way.”
By questioning, “Why do we always keep doing the same thing over and over again, getting less than optimal results?” You find opportunities and unmet needs.
It really has to do with identifying problems, which can lead to opportunities.
Once you identify a problem, you can start thinking and create a portfolio of possible solutions. You can test the ones that work through a process of what you’re trying to accomplish.
You can collaborate with other problem solvers and problem seekers. You need to put together a team.
But for doctors, it’s difficult for them to do this. We’re so focused on producing clinicians, and it’s such a long pipeline, that you really don’t have time to do anything else or focus on anything else once you’re committed on being a doctor.
This actually starts from high school. You work really hard in high school to get into a competitive University. Then you work really hard in college to get into medical school. Once your in medical school, you work hard to get into a competitive residency, etc, etc. And what I just described was 18 years of your life, just to become a doctor!
By the time you get to be a doctor it’s hard to focus on anything else. We’re trained to be a doctor and take care of patients. We’re in the business of helping patients by seeing them face to face, 20 patients a day, for 40 years.
But I would rather have a doctor create a company that is going to build a device that can treat millions of people, rather than have one doctor see 20 patients a day for 40 years.
And this is what Society of Physician Entrepreneurs is trying to do.
So the best way for entrepreneurship and innovation is through problem seeking and not just problem solving?
As I said before, you have to spend a lot of time on the problem and fully understand it before you can solve it.
“Spend more time on problem seeking rather than problem solving.”
You have to be a problem seeker rather than a problem solver first. You can’t just create a solution to a weak problem, or try to create a solution that doesn’t even have a problem. Most failed businesses do this, they create a solution and then try to look for problems that can fit into their “solution.”
Too many doctors, scientists, and engineers, whom I work a lot with, are too focused and obsessive over their solutions. They don’t really understand the problem they’re trying to solve. Understanding the problem, the needs and wants of a specific customer, understanding their motivation and pain points clearly is important. You need to know the size of the market, the growth potential, etc. This is the most important part of entrepreneurship in the early stages, rather than the solution.
Typically things don’t work because people create solutions before fully looking at the problems.
My tip for you is to,
“Spend a lot more time understanding the problem and kill your idea early, often, and cheaply before you go down a very complicated, time consuming, and expensive road.”
What are some major pitfalls and hardships entrepreneurs run into?
Two things that usually kill ideas, products, or companies are:
- Wrong Product: Companies or entrepreneurs don’t satisfy a market need or they don’t create the right product market mix. They fail to understand the customer. They don’t do a good job at relieving the market pain. And they don’t provide enough positive gain for the target customer.
- Passion: The other thing is that they create a non viable business model. They try to work on their passions. They follow after the advice, “Do what you love.” But doing what you love isn’t always profitable.
You can do what you want or are passionate about, but it won’t be profitable and you can go out of business. Scientists and doctors are intrigued by doing things that are interesting. But interesting doesn’t mean it’s going to be important or innovative in terms of creating value. Something that may be a passion of interest may not be a commercializable idea.
The other hardship are the major differences in the clinical research culture versus the corporate world. Academic researchers tend to be science focused problem solvers, looking to unlock the mysteries of nature.
Corporate research is very project-driven, based on a clearly defined unmet market need with profit driven urgency which is lacking in the noncorporate environment. The academic culture of “publish or perish” conflicts with a commercial culture to keep findings secret until patented. There is also a lack of innovation management systems to capture, assess and develop products and services with market potential.
But basically you must fully understand the unmet market needs and pain points to start the process of innovation. You need a road map to follow.
The life science innovation roadmap is a “How To” guide I made to walk you through the steps of getting your ideas to patients and to market. It can vary between drugs, devices, diagnostics, digital health, care delivery, etc. It’s a book for those interested in life science commercialization. I wrote another book for those that want to leave their medical practice through bioentrepreneurship.
End Part 2 of Interview – Continue to Part 3
Bio Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA
Dr. Arlen Meyers currently the President and CEO of Society of Physician Entrepreneurs. He has founded several medical device companies and is also the cofounder of a medical tourism company. His primary research centers around biomedical, health innovation, entrepreneurship, and life science technology commercialization. He consults for and speaks nationally and internationally to companies, governments, colleges and universities around the world who need expertise and contacts in the areas of bioentrepreneurship, bioscience, healthcare, healthcare IT, medical tourism, new product development, product design, and financing new ventures.
He is a faculty member at the University of Colorado Denver Graduate School and Direct the Program in Biomedical Entrepreneurship at the Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado Denver Business School. He also used to teach otolaryngology, dentistry, and engineering at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical campus.
Dr. Meyers is a former Harvard-Macy Fellow. He is also a Fulbright Scholar of Kings Business, the commercialization office of technology transfer at Kings College in London. His Publications include “Building the Case for Biotechnology”, “Optical Detection of Cancer”, “The Life Science Innovation Roadmap”, and “Sell the Bullets: Advice to Physician Entrepreneurs”. He is also the associate editor of the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship, and Editor-in-Chief of Medscape Reference: Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.