Why now is the time to solve problems

February 4, 2020

Crises are never fun. But they do expose many existing and new pain points within society, businesses, and other organisations. Uncovering opportunities for designers, developers, and entrepreneurs to jump in and help.

Times are weird at the moment. Many businesses and people are taking a big hit. It’s tough for those who work in the hospitality or event industry, not even to speak about those working in health care. A virus keeping us inside our homes all around the world, central banks printing money to keep the economy going, stock markets plummeting, and a debt bubble that keeps on growing. It does not sound like the perfect situation to start making bold moves.

And yet, I see something positive in this. Maybe, just maybe, this could be the beginning of a massive shift of focus. Some of the smartest people out there have been working for more than a decade on things that add zero value to us as a society. From top engineers improving a flash trading algorithm to be a microsecond faster than competition, to world class designers creating ways to make you hit that ‘like’ button just a little bit more.

What would happen if we all, from engineers and designers to entrepreneurs, focused on solving problems people actually cared about?

Indeed, the world would become a better place.

While many of us in the digital space are complaining about the lack of work, the amount of problems people and organisations care about is at an all time high. Perhaps it’s time to stop focussing on selling more, and start focussing on solving more.

Now more than ever people see how trivial Instagram likes are or how much designer clothing you’re selling. Everyone was running with blinders on and suddenly we all came to a hard stop. Entire organisations have been derailed, ICUs can’t handle the amount of patients, and people can’t see their family or friends. Productivity and happiness is plunging.

In a stressful and chaotic time like this, existing problems float to surface and new problems arise.

One example is here where the McLaren F1 team have built breathing devices that mean people do not need to be put on complex ventilators (and have to be sedated to be on them). Normally this would take years and they have done it in days because if the right focus and combining expertise.

Another example is that due to the social distancing measures there are many transactions that still make it hard to avoid physical contant. Many municipalities in The Netherlands (and probably all around the world) still demand you to go by one of their offices to physically perform a request for a certain document or registration.

My personal experience

At Eli5, a product development company in Amsterdam, we solve complex problems for businesses and other organisations all around the world. A while ago we’ve decided to solely focus on building products that solve problems people actually care about. It’s been quite a shift and although some of our earlier employees left us because of this, this is time when decisions like that pay off. (You can find more about this here)


Over the last 18 months we’ve been building a RegTech solution for an international bank. It’s a product that digitises the bank’s compliancy trajectories all around the world, while automating processes within those trajectories and making collaboration easier. The initial goal of the product was to speed up the time to go from regulation to policy, and give the bank more control and grip on the process. Making them more efficient and more resilient to regulatory pressure.

This current situation is showing one extra huge benefit of the product. Dozens of people who were using this solution already could work from home effortlessly, while others had to undergo a massive shift to continue their work during this temporarily ‘working from home’ situation.

The compound effect of problem solving

Solving problems gives you new problems to solve. It’s a never ending story. A problem solving mindset will outperform a selling more mindset. Perhaps not right away, but over time the difference will become significantly.

By choosing for the path of problem solving you will end up in a world of collaboration with more opportunities than you can handle.

A couple of problems you can start with today

If you don’t know where to start, then perhaps these few examples might help you get started. Although these areas have always been demanding improvement through automation and digitisation, currently many organisations and people around the world can’t perform essential tasks in these fields. The ‘important but less urgent’ all of a sudden became the ‘important and urgent’.

  • Digitalisation and automation of specific business processes (Making business more adaptable to unforeseen situations)
  • Enabling people to work together remotely. There are big players like Slack and Zoom, but there are still enough niches demanding specific tools. (Look at healthcare, zoom and slack mostly won’t work here due to the handling of sensitive data and strict regulations)
  • Automation of governmental processes. From municipality to federal governments.
  • Specific solutions for people with disabilities.

Problem solving movement

If you’re one of the designers or developers who is currently having a tough time finding work, then it could be that you’re looking in the wrong place. I know most people find problem solving not sexy enough. The hard work put into simple solutions is often taken for granted by the public, and we’re most definitely are not getting the likes and awards. If you need public recognition for what you do, then you will get more of that through building provocative campaign web products for big consumer brands. But on the larger scale of things solving complex problems will make you feel more much more fulfilled, meaningful, and content.

To anyone who’s struggling at the moment and could use some advice, feel free to reach out to us at Eli5. The best way to get in touch is via email, hello@eli5.io.

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