One of the entrepreneurial mantras we love at Girls With Ideas is "fall in love with a problem, not the solution.” This phrase refers to the idea that an entrepreneur should be more passionate about the problem they're solving, rather than the product they've developed. By focusing on the problem, entrepreneurs are able to be open-minded and pivot, or change their product, to the needs of the market and be more successful.
After learning about this concept, we wanted to apply it to the girls we work with. We often ask kids “What do you want to be when you grow up?” or “What do you want to major in when you go to college?” We are focused on their end-goal, what product we want them to produce.
These questions seem harmless, but they when we start asking kids from a young age what they want to be, they start to defining themselves by their own answers. They start creating a story for themselves that they may feel the need to live up to. Furthermore, these questions start the idea that your identity is composed of what you do for work. This is not all bad, it is good for children to have goals to work up to, however we believe it is more important that kids find problems they are interested in solving.
We don't know what kind of jobs we need for the future, many of them haven't even been created yet. So instead of talking to girls about the jobs they could have, we should be helping them get interested in the problems that mean something to them.
We all know we are more apt to study and be engaged when we are interested in the material. By helping kids find problems they want to solve, they can be open to a variety of classes and professions that contribute to solving that problem.
Instead of saying "I want to be a doctor" they can say, "I want to help people be healthy." This opens the door for so many other avenues to explore to reach their goal. If you are willing to spend five years of your life working on a problem, it's a good indication it is a passion of yours. But it's okay if your passion changes, ESPECIALLY as a kid!
How can we help kids fall in love with a problem?
We can start by asking them new questions. Questions that challenge. Questions that allow kids to change their minds. Questions that can help kids identify their passions.
- “What do you like to read or learn about?”
- "What makes your heart break?"
- "Is there anything that you do that makes you lose track of time?"
- “What are some of your interests?”
- “When do you feel like your best self?"
- “What problems do you love?”
In the Girls With Ideas curriculum we ask girls to brainstorm problems in their schools and communities. Here is a list of the categories of problems that we see commonly discussed by girls ages 9-13.
- Homeless animals
- Supporting animal shelters
- Treatment of animals
- Animals that are injured
- Animals biting or hurting people
- Art supplies for schools
- Art programs being cut in schools
- Cost of musical instruments
- Access to see plays and performances for all income levels
Being a Kid
- Not being able to get a job when you are young
- People not believing in you
- Others teasing you for what you like
- Trying to make friends
- There is never anything to do for kids
- Parents not trusting you
- Being too young to do things you want
- Parents not allowing you to dress a certain way
- Peer pressure
Note: any problem a kid sees can be the idea for a new business!
- Earning extra money as a kid
- How to open a bank account as a kid
- Access to email accounts
- How to make a website
- How to advertise your business
- Lack of activities for youth
- Child abuse and neglect
- Access to clean drinking water
- Domestic violence
- People who are hungry
- Police brutality
- Lack of affordable housing
- Care for people with disabilities
- Quality of public education
- School food
- Girls being able to go to school around the world
- Disparity between students
- School dress codes
- Too many tests
- Not enough classes you like
- Preparation for things you want to do after school
- Extinction of animals
- Global warming
- Rainforest Destruction
- Pollution (air and water)
- Tornados or hurricanes
- Mental health issues
- Making health care affordable
- Women’s health issues
- False information
- People make fake accounts
- Stealing other’s idea
- Being lonely
- Self-esteem/body issues in girls
- Pressure to look a certain way
- LGBTQIA rights
- Local, state, or national laws of interest
- Supporting a candidate you like
- Not being able to vote as a kid
- International relations with other countries
- Helping refugees
- Media coverage
Note: any problem a kid sees can be the inspiration for a new invention
- Opportunities to learn how to code
- Finding cures for diseases
- Building new programs
- Security issues
- Getting internet access for everyone
- Access to technology for all students
- New forms of transportation (self-driving cars)
- Internet regulations
Perhaps reading through this list of problems with a girl in your life will help her identify a few problems that she's interested in solving. What other problems would your Girl With Idea add to the list? Comment below!