Our session with Dr.Sanjay Kumar, India Country Director, Harvard Univeristy was an eye opener for most of the attendees. Often we are so enamored with our ideas and potential solutions to perceived problems that we fail to really understand the environment and associated problems of the target users. Dr. Sanjay Kumar explained this to us in a very easy to understand manner. He spoke about how most of us in the session would be from private schools and if we are solving a problem like access to education then we need to actually visit those places to deeply understand the issues faced there.
Don’t blindly rely on data, live the experience:Sitting in a premier private school with good access to internet, we may design an app to address the education gap. We may also explain how our idea is great using data that we have collected which shows that more than 65% of children in the school going age do not have access to quality education. But, this is not how we can actually solve the problem. We need to visit the rural areas, live with those people, talk to them and understand all the various interlinked reasons why there is a lack of quality education or why children are not going to school. Only then we will be able to create a solution that actually becomes a success.
Understand The Problem, The Need and The Gaps: He also mentioned that while it is very easy to write articles on a complex problem like education and even claim to be an expert in that area with some data and statistics, we actually will not understand the problem or the need of the potential users in this manner. So, instead of immersing ourselves in data from the internet, we should immerse ourselves in the lives of our target users, so that we understand the problem, as well as the needs. We should then identify the gaps in the market and the current solutions being offered, so that we can create a solution best suited to address the problem.
He also explained the difference between sympathy and empathy and how we should feel it and live it before we solve it – no matter what the problem statement is !