Super Cities №115 - Bell Labs and The Power of "Good Problems"

Brendan Hart

Bell Labs — in New Jersey — was the original innovation center in America.

In this book, the author recounts a scene where a leader from Bell Labs says: “we have plenty of people with good ideas. We need people with good problems.”

Every founder should have a sign on their workstation:

WE NEED GOOD PROBLEMS

But most do not and, worse, they don’t realize it.

The single most common mistake among first-time founders is that they start with an idea — even the ones they truly believe! — rather than a problem.

Ideas are cool. They are comfortable and safe. Some are even great.

But in the world of innovation, ideas are cheap. Everyone has them, and most are not very good to start.

But good problems — the harder, the better — are world-changing.

Good problems are transformative because they are not readily identifiable. They live in complex systems like cities, housing, and energy.

It will take you some time to find one, but once you do, your work will transform. If you want some help, give me a shout.

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