Are all problems worth fixing?

I admit that I’m of the particular mindset of looking out into the world and find flaws— glitches in the system— and construct logical paths in my mind to fix them.

And, if I can start crafting a solution with a blank slate the better. Who doesn’t like thinking about what’s possible!

But, are all problems worth fixing?

That is indeed the problem people like myself run into.

For example, an article on Fast Company recently pointed out that Silicon Valley is taking problem solving to the extreme: fixing simplistic inconveniences.

But Silicon Valley’s problem inflation is more than a shopworn advertising trope—it’s evidence that entrepreneurs are tackling issues that are really only problems for people much like themselves. Tech companies offer perks like free meals, dry cleaning, and bike repair to their workers (indeed, fourth fueling startup Booster Fuels sells its refueling services to companies that want to offer it as a benefit). Their veteran employees launch startups that make conveniences once enjoyed only by extremely wealthy people—butlers, on-demand drivers, personal assistants—accessible to the creative class, who as the WeFuel ad points out, have become accustomed to a world in which “every day, in every way, the things that matter to our lives are coming to us.” It’s only when you consider the stereotypically overworked and unprecedentedly privileged lifestyle of the Silicon Valley tech workers who invent and consume these services—as opposed to those who do the work to perform them—that these ho-hum errands that make up everyday life begin to look anything like actual problems.

Is taking the time to fill up your gas tank that big of a pain in the ass? Would we rather not have to do it? Yes. But, I think most of us can agree that it isn’t that big of a pain, as it is an activity that varies in it’s level of inconvenience.

I think it’s one of those inconveniences that sounds great not to have to do, but how about not having to pay for gas at all? That’s a more interesting problem to solve, as Elon Musk well knows.

There are various ways to identify hot buttons problems, undeniable truths. Which makes it easy to look at hot button problems and believe they’re worth fixing. The fact of the matter is that there isn’t a tried and true way to decide which problems to fix, it is very much a personal feeling.

I’ve written in the past that everything around us is ripe for innovation, especially things that haven’t changed for a while. A lot of potential innovations are born from seeking needs, but it matters how hot of a button it is for people when it comes to deciding which problems to fix; and sometimes it isn’t entirely obvious.

Other times, as the author of the Fast Company article mentions, innovators just aim to fix their own problems; which sometimes ends up being a problem others suddenly want fixed too because they’ve never thought about it.

Yet we must remember that for every innovation, there are hundreds or thousands of other ideas that didn’t make it because they didn’t catch on. This, of course, is what all potential game-changing ideas are up against: indifference.

So, focus is important.

Personally, I believe that life is too short not do something that matters, so focus on fixing problems that matter a lot to you; create the things you’d like to see out in the world.

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