Migraine Problems vs Headache Problems: Telling the Difference When Creating a Product

If you had a headache, what would you do?

You would find one of the several over-the-counter pain relievers in your pantry or just ignore the headache until it dissolves.

Now change that to a migraine, what would you do?

You would be one of the many migraine sufferers around the world trying a range of methods, such as seeking a doctor, getting prescription pain killers, going through therapy, sometimes even surgery, and spending a lot of money and time trying to find the best relief.

This is the stark difference between headaches and migraines. People go out of their way to try to solve migraine problems.

The first business professor I ever had taught me this analogy, and it has stuck with me ever since — when trying to solve a problem by creating a product or service, make sure you are focusing on migraine problems, NOT headache ones.

Train your brain to seek out migraine problems

One of the first assignments in my business class with this professor was to identify 25 migraine problems over one week through sheer observation of my surroundings. This was very challenging, as I didn’t have the right mindset nor skill set to be able to seek this out. That week I was only able to identify less than 10. He gave the same assignment for the following week and lo and behold, I was able to identify about 20. All it took was consciously tuning my senses to search for these opportunities over the span of two weeks. By now, two years later, I can probably identify close to 50 migraine problems within a week if I tried.

When my cofounder and I were at the Collision Conference sharing our startup idea, we received very positive feedback for solving a real problem. Several investors told us that all week they had been hearing pitch after pitch of companies just solving convenience problems or “first-world” issues, nothing of real sustainable value. Meanwhile, our startup was meeting several big needs that have not been met yet — solving a migraine problem rather than a headache problem.

Ultimately, the learning lesson from this assignment was that real opportunity is plentiful, but those who were focused on solving real problems are not. If you want to create something sustainable, make sure you are focusing on meeting a migraine need and providing value.

Ask yourself these questions to understand whether you are solving a migraine or headache problem:

  1. What value are you providing consumers? 
    Would people pay for this? 
    Would you pay for it?
  2. Are there other solutions existing? 
    How are people coping with their problem right now? 
    Are they simpler and more established? 
    Or can you offer something better and more convenient?
    Do NOT build a better mousetrap.
    [The Better Mousetrap Fallacy — the mistaken notion that if a company produces a technically better product than its competitors it will be more successful in the marketplace.]

Tara Demren is a social entrepreneur, poet & insight capturer who is fascinated about startup culture and why we are the way we are. She is the host of Tea Time with Tara, which curates high quality content & shares 🔑 life takeaways for all.

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