How To Convert A Pain Point Into An Opportunity

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More than ever, our society and culture of convenience is creating creatures of habit and seekers of comfort. How often do you catch yourself complaining about a “first world” problem? The very notion of discomfort can cause grief to so many people, whether it's at work or in play, and yet it’s in this discomfort that we can find our biggest gains.

I’ve been as guilty as all of us in seeking out comfort. Just the other week, I could see myself avoiding certain tasks because of the perceived discomfort involved. Notice the word “perceived” there. Our mind plays great tricks on us in making some things seem much more painful or uncomfortable than what they really are. Cognitive distortion amplifies the emotional discomfort to a point that it feels more painful than a physical pain.

The Dalai Lama once said, “pain in life is inevitable, yet misery is optional,” and if we are interested in changing our professional, personal or business situation then there will be a certain amount of discomfort involved. My Dalai Lama modified quote is “In business, customer pain is inevitable, yet customer misery is optional”.

What I mean by this is that no matter what your industry, business or market, your existing or future customer has a pain. Their misery is optional. They could choose to stop using your product or service, they could use a competitor's product or service, or they could continue to use it and stay in misery until the next innovator comes up with a better solution to deal with it.

The challenge lies in being able to identify the obstacles, problems and discomfort that will inevitably turn up when we are on a mission to innovate or improve a business, product or service.

In this post, I want to share how pain points and discomfort can be opportunities. I’ll share how to deal with some of these obstacles in another upcoming post, yet in this one, I want to share how to find pain points, and why pain points make the innovation world go around.

The Innovator's Pain

Innovators have to endure pain in order to succeed. If you don’t like that word, we can use the word discomfort instead.

It’s important to understand why these pains exist so that you can prepare for them yourself and to also realise that your competitor (who may well be an innovator as well) will have to encounter these pain points as well. The innovator or business that can deal with them, embrace them and identify them faster and more effectively is more often than not, the one that becomes the ground breaking innovator and industry leader.

Here’s a list of some of the key pains that you can expect as an innovator or innovative business:

  • Cognitive load

  • Confession/ insights

  • Risk

  • New Learning

  • Uncertainty

  • Finance

  • Unknowns

  • Logistics

  • Timing

  • Skills

  • Technology

  • Motivation

  • Change

  • Thinking style

  • Behavioural change

  • Cognitive change

  • Solving the unsolvable

The Customer's Pain

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The customer, or user of your product, process or service, is experiencing a pain right now. Some customers will tell you about it, others know about it but say nothing, others experience pain but don’t even know what that pain is.

Here’s a list of pains that customers may be experiencing right now that could be an opportunity for you to solve.

Process Problems:

  • Complexity

  • Time to complete

  • Effort required

  • Cognitive load to learn/ adapt/ implement

  • Quality

  • Poor systemisation

  • Poor analytical skills or analytics

  • Metrics

Product Problems:

  • Functionality

  • Design aesthetics

  • Price

  • Reliability

  • Installation

  • Maintenance/ upgrades

  • Operational complexity

  • Usability

  • Durability

Service Problems:

  • Interaction

  • Problem solving

  • Trouble shooting

  • Delivery

  • Follow up

  • Payments

  • Frequency of servicing

  • Difficulty in servicing

  • Location

  • Reputation

  • Repeat & future customers

Individual Problems:

(the problems an individual or group of customers might have at work or at home):

  • Lack of time

  • Lack of finance

  • Lack of confidence

  • Security

  • Lack of understanding/ knowledge

  • Fear of unknown

  • Lack of respect

  • Lack of skills

  • Lack of problem solving ability

  • Lack of creativity

  • Negative criticism

  • Strenuous effort

  • Time wasting

  • Boredom

  • Frustration

Here’s the rub: to innovate, we will be going through a number of pain points in order to deal with our customer's discomfort. The more pain points you can endure, the higher the chances of you creating a breakthrough innovation.

Take the time to either solve one of these pain points for your customer or team and see what type of innovation is generated as a result of it.



(Founder of Ideas With Legs)

Michelle Ignacio