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Is Your Hair on Fire? A Guide to Discovering User Problems
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Is Your Hair on Fire? A Guide to Discovering User Problems

Is Your Hair on Fire? A Guide to Discovering User Problems

Kritika Oberoi
August 25, 2022

When building a product from scratch, rather than starting with solutions you want to start with problems.

What is the “hair on fire” problem I’m solving for someone—are they worrying about this all the time? Have they tried to solve it before? How much does it cost them to live with this problem in terms of time or money?

Hair on fire
Image credit: Magnify Consulting

The reality is all of us have 1000s of problems, small frictions and irritations, annoyances and abrasions in our lives—but there are very few that we prioritize and actually solve. If it’s not a hair on fire problem for your customers, chances are they won’t buy your product.

Is your hair on fire? 🔥

It’s not that hard to identify hair on fire problems—you can ask people what they are. The real magic lies in how you ask the question.

The last thing you want to do is to suggest the right answer to your customers, or hear them rave and rant about a problem for 30 minutes, without stepping back to find out—but does this really matter?

There are a few good ways to get this answer. To start with, don’t trust what people say. Trust what they do. Ask for evidence of past experience—did you care enough to solve this problem? Did you go looking for a solution? Did you hire someone to fix it for you?

Words just don't cut it by themselves.

Your Starter Discovery Question Guide

To get you kicked off, here’s the first ever User Interview Question Guide we set up at Looppanel. These are the very questions that helped us hone in on the problems our target customers cared most about, what they’d done to solve it, and why it really mattered to them.

Discovery Question Script


  • What’s your role?
  • What’s the goal of your job? What is its purpose?

Pain Points

  • What is / are the biggest barrier(s) to achieving the purpose of your job?
  • Are there other things in your work that really frustrate you or make you upset?
  • Stack-rank these issues from highest to lowest priority

Existing Solutions

  • What do you do to solve the main problem today?
  • What does this solution cost you or the company? (in terms of time, money, or effort)
  • Where does the budget come from?
  • What do you like about this solution?
  • What do you dislike about this solution?
  • How much would those fixes be worth? (try to find what they're actually paying to solve this problem today or what it costs them to live with the status quo)
  • How big of a pain would it be for them to switch to a new solution?
  • What are the implications of not solving this problem? Of the status quo?

Wrap Up

  • Is there anything else you think we should know?
  • Is there anyone else in your network you think we should speak to?


Hair on Fire
Problem Solving
Time Management
User Interview
Decision Making
Urgent vs. Important Tasks
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