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The spirit is solution-agnostic

William Liao


With any endeavor there is:

  1. The spirit of the problem: what you’re trying to accomplish in general terms (e.g. helping people feel better)
  2. The orthodoxy: specific solutions widely accepted as ways to address the problem today (e.g. introducing unlimited PTO policies in the workplace)
  3. The novelty: potential solutions that challenge how we think about the way we currently operate in fundamental ways (e.g. the emergence of the gig economy or the transition from physical to digital media). Whether novel solutions end up being a trend (long-lived) or a fad (short-lived) starts as a coin toss, but eventually creative minds who are able to quickly change paradigms and see the value of certain novel solutions solutions are able to leverage their insight to unlock massive strategic & capital gains (e.g. early adopters of bitcoin or Zappos encouraging customer support reps to stay on the phone longer).

Historically people tend to forget the spirit, latch on to the orthodoxy, and as a result struggle to consider and fully leverage the novelty:

The move from dollar bills & cents to digital currency such as bitcoin & the world’s latest experiment: non-fungible tokens.

The move from Musically, an app ‘for kids’, to what is known today as TikTok.

The move from seeing medical devices as strictly hardware to recognizing that software can be a medical device (SAMDs) that helps patients too.

The spirit of the problem you are trying to solve — the thing you’re really trying to achieve — will always be solution-agnostic. Good work and creating an impact has never been about the specific solution, it’s about a repeated process of replacing current solutions with a better way to do things — however unconventional they may seem at first.

While it’s true that trying new things will never guarantee that things get better, it does offer the only chance there is for a version of the future where the people you aim to serve are just a little bit more whole, more happy, and more capable of thriving.

Embarking on this journey that just might yield a better version of the world starts with clarifying and focusing on the spirit of the problem you’re trying to solve (not the solution) and being willing to wipe the entire slate clean when it comes to your understanding of how the world works today.

Once you’ve done that, many of the ideas that previously constrained you will begin to disappear and you can start building for the thriving future that you and the people you aim to serve deserve.



William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (ephemera.photography)