Unpacking the Innovator's Gift

Build Products Your Customers
Cannot Refuse


See it in action How to get started

The basic premise

New problems worth solving are created as byproducts of old solutions. With the right framing, you can position your product to be the only viable alternative in your customer's mind -- making the competition irrelevant.

Uncover What Customers Want

Use jobs-to-be-done techniques to uncover the causal forces that drive customers to buy.

Build a Mafia Offer

Use a story driven pitch to craft offers your customers cannot refuse.

Drive growth

Leverage customer forces to drive acquisition, retention, and referrals.

What is the Innovator's Gift?

How do you build a "better" product? What does "better" even mean? These are the key questions the Innovator's Gift sets out to answer.

While methodologies, like the Lean Startup, emphasize starting with an MVP, then using rapid experimentation and metrics for idea validation, success is often predicated on having started with a reasonably good idea in the first place.

Too many entrepreneurs simply throw their half-baked solutions over the fence at customers — calling it an MVP or experiment. But when customers encounter a half-baked MVP, they don’t turn into early adopters or testers, they leave.

We have to level up our game and start with better products.

Problem Discovery Before Solution Validation

At the earliest stages of an idea, when you don’t know what you don’t know, you need to employ a discovery versus validation mindset.

Guessing at smaller solutions (or starting with an MVP) is certainly better than spending a year building a perfect product no one wants. But this approach is still vulnerable to the Innovator’s Bias where you simply ask: “What problem could my solution solve?” versus “What problems do my customers have?”

Going fast doesn't automatically get you to breakthrough.

Love the Problem, Not Your Solution

The challenge today isn’t building more products, but uncovering the better product to build — which begs the question: “What defines a better product?” A fundamental mindset shift for doing that is starting with problems before solutions.

Starting with a solution (no matter how small) is like building a key without a door. If you simply flip that around and start with problems, solution building becomes a lot easier, and you actually build keys to doors that take you places.

Problems, not solutions, create space for innovation.

The Problem with Problems

While the idea of starting with problems is simple, systematically uncovering problems worth solving is quite difficult -- for a number of reasons.

Here are the top three:

  1. Entrepreneurs often unconsciously invent or fake problems to justify building their solution because of their Innovator Bias for the solution.
  2. If your starting problems fail to resonate with prospects, it’s hard to set up conversations with them because they’re too busy fighting their own “real” problems.
  3. You can’t simply ask customers about their top problems because they often don’t know, don’t want to tell you, don’t know what to tell you, or give you a solution instead of a problem.

And here are some more:

  • Open-ended problem discovery, without an anchor or constraint, easily leads to aimless wandering.
  • The same is true with open-ended observation techniques.
  • Too narrow a constraint can miss the mark completely, or lead to a local maxima solution.
  • Leading with problems can put your prospects on the defensive because people don’t like to feel vulnerable.
  • Some products are hard to frame in terms of problems e.g. desire-driven products like video games, fashion, or a movie.

So, is there a better way?
The answer has been staring us in the face…

Meet The Innovator’s Gift

Entrepreneurs spend a disproportionate amount of time framing problems in terms of their solution which is vulnerable to the Innovator's Bias.

The secret is framing problems in terms of the obstacles that prevent customers from achieving their desired outcomes with with their old solutions.

The Innovator’s Gift is realizing that there is no such thing as a perfect solution. Problems and solutions are two sides of the same coin. And new problems worth solving come from old solutions.

If you carry this forward further…

Even your awesome new solution, once launched, will spew out problems of it’s own. The key to staying relevant to your customers and defending/growing your business model does not come from throwing more features (solutions) at them, but rather continuously uncovering problems and addressing them — before your competitors do.

This is the essence of Continuous Innovation…And yes, there is a step-by-step framework for doing this…

Applying The Innovator’s Gift

The workhorse of the Innovator's Gift is understanding and applying the four causal forces that drive customers to demand and consume products using the Customer Forces Canvas.

Step 1: Problem Discovery

The first step is studying how your target customers currently buy and use products through carefully scripted customer interviews.

Step 2: Offer Assembly

From there, you prioritize the top problems worth solving and identify your one true competition. With the right problems identifed, you are then in the best position to formulate a solution, craft a unique value proposition, and assemble a mafia offer -- an offer your customers cannot refuse.

Step 3: Offer Delivery

The final step is delivering the mafia offer using a powerful story narrative that immediately gets your customer's attention, convincies them that your solution is indeed better, and compels them to act now.

See the Innovator's Gift in Action

Watch a recent talk titled "Love the Problem" delivered at the Industy Conference:

3 Ways to Get Started With the Innovator's Gift

Learn about the framework through webinars, workshops, and from a growing and active community of practitioners.

1. Download the Customer Forces Canvas

Use the canvas to identify your top problems worth solving.

Download the Customer Forces Canvas - FREE

2. Join the private community

Become an early co-creator, go behind the scenes, and join in on the conversation.

Here's what you'll get:

  • Online course with lessons delivered every 2 weeks.
  • Get early access to latest versions of the framework and tools.
  • Private community for discussion and Q&A.

Join the private community - $100

3. Attend a hands-on workshop

Go through the steps of problem discovery, offer assembly, and offer delivery with a real-world product in an immersive workshop led by Ash Maurya, author and creator of Lean Canvas.

See upcoming workshops