Are you ever frustrated by those menial tasks you do on a daily basis? Yet, like most, you continue to go about your daily routine, mindlessly doing your job the way it’s always been done.
Your job will remain this way until you become aware of a solution that completely...
For me, one of those annoying problems was scheduling group meetings. I received email thread upon email thread of people giving me random days and times that never seemed to line up. I don’t even want to think about how many hours I’ve lost...
Yet, into the time-wasting abyss of scheduling came Boomerang Calendar. With one email, any meeting is scheduled. It’s a genius concept that should’ve existed a long time ago.
If you’re on the verge of creating something great, how can you replicate that same life-changing feeling of bliss that the makers of Boomerang produced for their customers? How do you build mind blowing tech products that seem so simple yet leave users thinking, “That’s brilliant! How did I not think of that?”
Fundamentally, every business is focused on solving a problem for a customer. Figuring out the most efficient and cost-effective way to do this plays a large role in the success or failure of a business. To be most efficient and cost-effective, a business must remove or simplify any steps in their processes that are overly costly or largely unnecessary.
And that’s the key: the great thing about technology is that it can automate steps in a process, helping to speed up a process or eliminate steps completely. For technology to work to your advantage, you must first understand where technology can actually be used to simplify your processes. But before you can simplify, all of the steps of a given process need to be mapped out.
Enter the Critical Path Method:
At Sticksnleaves, we use a process called the “critical path method” to map out a problem and potential solution. We break down the problem and current solution step by step to see how the potential user is currently solving this problem, and we term this sequence a “Critical Path.”
Understanding the “critical path” your customer takes to get from problem to solution will help you discover which steps may be removed or improved by technology. Identifying this path is a crucial first step to understanding how a user might ultimately navigate through your application or website.
To illustrate, let’s consider a very practical example.
Critical Path for Uber:
Uber, the taxi hailing app, is a great example of taking a very annoying problem and solving it very elegantly by removing steps. The experience is so powerful, yet so simple, that you almost feel like you have superpowers! It’s like…
Now, what would Uber’s critical path look like? When the founders of Uber first got together to talk about their new, crazy idea, they definitely took a look at the normal series of steps a person goes through to hail a taxi. From there, they decided how their concept and technology could be used to remove and/or simplify as many of those steps as possible.
Steps People Take for Hailing a Taxi:
Let’s take a look at a normal taxi’s critical path compared to Uber’s critical path for a customer.
As you can see, this representation of a normal taxi’s critical path is composed of 7 steps, riddled with wasted time, potentially dangerous and embarrassing scenarios, and plenty of uncertainty. Uber’s critical path, however, whittles the process down to only four steps, all of which are more time efficient, less dangerous and awkward, and more certain.
Uber was able to create a tech business by fixing the things people hated most about hailing cabs. Not only did Uber improve the process, simplify it, and remove unnecessary steps, but Uber also made it cheaper. And because of this, there’s almost no reason not to use Uber, and Uber’s amazing success testifies to this.
The critical path method is a simple, yet effective, framework to use in order to create mind-blowing tech products. As we saw with the Uber example, the three basic steps to use the critical path method effectively are as follows:
- Develop an innate understanding of a problem.
- Map out the critical steps people currently take to solve that problem.
- Using technology, remove as many steps as possible
But if you don’t believe me, take it from Ev Williams, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter:
“Here’s the formula if you want to build a billion-dollar internet company: Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.” - Ev Williams1
Based on the staggering amount of new tech inventions daily, there are plenty of processes out there that have not yet been simplified, ideas not yet imagined, and products not yet invented. But it’s an entrepreneur’s job to find and develop them with vision and creativity. Good luck!