I’m a movie buff and to distinguish what problem-solving means in a startup I’ll use a great example from the movie The Martian. I loved Matt Damon's character at the end of the story in class (on Earth), in which he says; “At some point everything is going to go south on you and you are going to say to yourself, okay this is how I am going to end. You can either accept that or you can get to work. That’s all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem, then you solve the next one and then the next and if you solve enough of them you get to go home".
In a startup, if you don’t solve enough problems, your company ceases to... well… startup. It ends. If you solve enough problems you get to grow, make money, compete, grow some more and perhaps even have a successful exit. Solving a problem is another way of saying you get the result or you achieved an important and valuable milestone. It really is that black and white in a start-up. In the movie, Matt’s start-up on Mars has the goal of getting back to Earth and is a fantastic example of commitment, problem solving and doing what is required to get the result, no matter what.
Therefore problem-solving must be an essential part of the DNA of your startup team. The team has to be able to “figure-it-out”. To do this you and your team must be both creative and pragmatic problem-solvers whose activity leads to desired results. Finding both qualities in all of the team members may be hard as many people will be stronger in either dimension, but you have to have both qualities in the team as a whole to identify problems, create solutions and execute them. That is how Matt Damon’s character survived and made it back home from Mars, and that is how your startup will survive and make it in the marketplace.