problem-solution fit canvas image

The Complete Guide to Facilitating a Problem-Solution Fit Canvas Workshop

3 June 2022

Launching a new product or service is a costly reality check. 

Seeing our well-crafted solution presented to the world, and not being used, is the most puzzling situation.

Was the messaging clear enough?

Was its design appealing enough?

Why is the customer not taking any action, although he clearly said he wanted this? 

Behavioral psychology teaches us that the connection between the mind and actions is not a clear and rational journey. Therefore, as innovators, our job is to understand the context and mindset to make the customers use a solution that fits their most pressing needs.

Based on Lean Startup, Lazy User Model, and User Experience design principles, the Problem-Solution Fit canvas is an essential tool to craft a solution that is more likely to be adopted. 

By focusing on behavioral patterns, the Problem-Solution Fit canvas helps: 

  • Dig deeper into the customer’s problems to decide which one is worth solving.
  • Sharpen our communication and marketing strategy with the proper messaging.
  • Adjust our value proposition to the continuous changes happening in the market.

And because solving such complex problems often requires various sets of expertise and experiences, we explain here how to facilitate this activity with a group. 

Invite the right people

The most suitable setting to complete a Problem-Solution Fit canvas is a workshop: a systematized session that allows a group of people to make decisions and solve problems. Thus, you need to make sure that your invitees have some decision-making power and can help understand the situation better.

Since the Problem-Solution Fit canvas focuses on the customer, employees directly connecting with the end customers usually bring great insights. They can be from the sales team, the customer success team, and the community management team.

Yet, the presence of those involved in product strategy, innovation, and marketing is required to ensure that the decisions made during the workshop will lead to actionable plans. Their job will be to create and execute the strategy.

Fill the canvas together

The Problem-Solution Fit canvas consists of nine sections to fill in a specific order.

Order of filling the Problem-Solution Fit Canvas sections

1. Customer Segment(s)

In this section, make participants identify clearly the target group. Then, write down any tangible characteristics and demographics.

Who are the customers? Are they primarily men? Or women? What is their age group? What’s their main interest?

If you are in a B2B market, who is the end-user? And who is making the purchasing decision?

Customer segment section on the Problem-Solution Fit template on ExcelWay

Tip 1: Identify segments and determine how to represent them on the canvas

Your target market might consist of distinct segments.

Depending on your context, you might choose to treat each segment in a separate canvas. This way, your participants will be able to dive deeper into individual customer segments and build tailored strategies.

However, if you are still exploring the potential markets to tap into, we recommend bringing together all segments on the same canvas. Use a different sticky note for each segment.

The discussions during the workshop might lead you to:

  • Realize that these segments have different problems, behaviors, or channels. In that case, the sticky note colors per segment will help identify patterns on the canvas. 
  • Decide which segment to serve and which ones to ignore. 

2. Problems and Jobs to be Done

What problem(s) do you want to solve for your target customer?

How often does it occur?

Tip 2: Use Voice of the Customer to fill the problems section

In this section, make your participants brainstorm on the target customer’s problems.

These can be verbatims extracted from Voice of the Customer materials such as sales recordings, customer complaints, or social media discussions.

Again, working with words used by real customers will allow the team to craft a message that sounds familiar to clients and resonate with their concerns.

However, we recommend not solely relying on the problems that have been voiced by the customer since:

  • customers might be unaware of some problems they face;
  • when complaints are not associated with behavior, it might signal that the client has little intent to find a solution.
Problems and Jobs to be done section in Problem Solution Fit Canvas Template

Tip 3: Write problem statements as assumptions

If the group is unsure what problem to solve, it is worth writing down assumptions to be tested.

To verify these hypotheses effectively, consider using the Experiment Canvas.

Tip 4: Use Jobs to be Done

Encourage participants to think of customer pains in terms of Jobs to be Done.

It will help them fill in section #9 about the root cause of the problem.

For instance, instead of writing “Having no umbrella when it rains sucks,” encourage the workshop’s attendees to specify the customer’s context when they feel this problem.

Maybe this will lead them to discover that what is annoying to the customer is not having an umbrella when going to work or on a date? But, on the other hand, maybe they don’t mind getting wet by the rain while on their way home?

If you are in the B2B sector, Jobs to be Done are crucial when selling products and services to organizations and professionals.

Tip 5: Evaluate the problems’ urgency, cost, and frequency

Once participants have listed the customer’s concerns and jobs to be done, bring them to identify the most frequent, costly, and urgent ones.

These three criteria will influence the customer’s intent to look for a solution.

If you use a digital facilitation tool such as ExcelWay, add a tag to your colored sticky note to visually represent these criteria.

If you find yourself with a long list of customer pains, consider using the voting feature to prioritize them.

tags and sticky notes colors on the problem-solutions fit template on ExcelWay

Tip 6: Analyse problems along the lines of customer segments

Remember: frequency, urgency, and cost related to a problem can differ from one customer segment to another.

Moreover, this analysis can also help you further refine your client segments. For example, not having an umbrella when it rains happens less frequently in the sunny south of France than in London.

3. Triggers

What triggers customers to act on the problem and seek a solution?

People can face frequent and costly problems. But still, they only take action or interest to solve them thanks to a specific trigger.

For example, the catalyst can be an ad or a conversation with a friend. Relatable triggers will make the solution look familiar and spark associations in the clients’ minds.

Tip 7: Invite participants to think about their behavior in their last purchase

If your attendees find the triggers section (or any other section of the canvas) challenging to grasp, ask them to reflect on what triggered their last purchase.

Maybe it was a talk at a conference that made them think they should hire a coach? Perhaps a friend’s Facebook post prompted them to book their trip to Bali?

Mimicking a powerful trigger in the communication strategy can turn a customer’s mere interest into an urgent intent to buy.

image of the Problem-Solution Fit template on Excelway

Tip 8: Pay attention to the customer stories

If the product is already on the market, you can learn directly from customers what has been their trigger to act.

It usually comes from the sales team’s conversations with the client. If this topic is not part of the sales script, it might be worth adding!

4. Emotions

Invite participants to think about the client’s emotions before and after solving the problem.

Tapping into the customers’ deepest desires and fears helps show them how the offer will improve their lives.

Retaking the umbrella example: someone showing up to a meeting completely wet might feel embarrassed and lose self-confidence.

Contrarily, showing up in perfect shape with an umbrella at hand might double his self-assurance and signal to the others that he’s the kind of person that got everything covered.

examples of emotions in the Problem Solution Fit canvas

5. Available Solutions

What are the available solutions to solve the problem? Have the customers tried them in the past? Are they fully satisfied using them?

These prompts will help your participants draft what makes them different from the competition.

6. Customer Limitations

What constraints prevent customers from taking action?

What limits their choice of solutions?

For example, if you are selling software but your customers only use smartphones and don’t have a computer at home, your offer won’t be relevant to solve their problem.

Insights from this section have the power to shape the solution itself and its pricing and business model.

7. Behavior

What does the customer do to address the problem?

Perhaps they are already testing different solutions?

Or do they freeze in indecision as the problem is big, complex, and costly?

The lack of behavior associated with the problem can also signal a lack of interest in solving it.
Again, Voice of the Customer materials is pretty useful for this section.

Tip 9: Pay attention to the behavior’s intensity evolution

An increasingly intense behavior signals a shift in the customer’s interest in a solution.

Lead participants to dig deeper into potential sources that can signal a behavior change.

For example, maybe some keywords are more searched on Google?

Perhaps, partners or resellers notice more customer demand for a service or product?

7. Channels of Behavior

Where does this behavior occur online and offline?

Are the customers talking about it on social media?

Or do they rather ask a trusted friend?

Use those same familiar channels to reach potential clients.

7. Root Cause Problem

Now comes the time for a final digging into the problem before crafting a solution.

In this section, make the group reflect on the back story behind the problem to be solved. Why does this problem even exist in the first place?

Tip 10: Find the root cause problem with the five whys method

The 5 whys technique is a simple tool to reveal the underlying causes of a problem.

It consists in asking “why?” to an arising problem and questioning each answer with additional “why” questions.

Using ExcelWay, you’ll find a template and a blog post focused on this problem-solving method.

8. Solution

If the group is crafting a new solution, then this section is the final one of the activity.

On the contrary, if the workshop aims at improving an existing solution, make your participants fill this section first.

Then, once the other sections are complete, they can review the solution based on the new insights.

This step aims to match the data collected from the previous sections and craft a solution that taps into the customers’ existing behavior and mental model.

Lead participants to identify patterns throughout the canvas and prioritize the triggers that will create urgency to adopt the solution.

Tip 11: Use the Crazy 8 method to generate innovative ideas

The Crazy Eights activity has the potential to boost your attendees’ imagination and energy.

Use the ExcelWay template to collect a variety of ideas. Again, you can refer to this short article to facilitate it.

Wrap up the workshop and set the next steps

Once the participants have filled all the canvas sections, it’s time to congratulate them for completing one of the most powerful activities in the UX field!

A Problem-Solution Fit Canvas workshop’s primary next steps consist of testing assumptions.

Depending on the available data, your participants have probably filled some sections with hypotheses not sustained with concrete data. Although it’s ok (and recommended) to fill the canvas with assumptions, testing them with real-world data is crucial.

Tip 12: Clarify the assumptions to be tested and prioritize them

Visually representing the assumptions with a specific sticky note color or a tag comes quite handy for identifying them quickly at the end of the workshop.

Again, if you’re using ExcelWay, you’ll have colored sticky notes and colored tags available on the Problem-Solution Fit template activity.

Nonetheless, please remember that all assumptions might not be worth being tested in priority.

If you find yourself with many assumptions, make your participants use the voting feature to determine the most important ones.

Tip 13: Set actionable plans to run experimentations before leaving the room

We’ve seen too many teams reaching momentum after completing a Problem-Solution Fit canvas, accessing fresh insights and a bright and clear vision, and simply not following up on this work. 

Therefore, we strongly recommend planning the experimentations at the end of the workshop.

There is no need to get into specifics at this point. However, a simple task reminder, such as “include question on how customers heard about us in our onboarding survey,” will go a long way. 


Frequently Asked Questions about the Problem-Solution Fit Canvas workshop

Where does the Problem-Solution Fit Canvas come from?

Daria Nepriakhina, a member of the Idea Hackers Network, created the Problem-Solution Fit Canvas. is a Dutch organization that supports innovation with hands-on learning programs and a large community of professionals.

You can find more information about the network and the Problem-Solution Fit Canvas on their website.

When to run a Problem-Solution Fit Canvas workshop?

Ideally, run this activity during the ideation phase of a project. A vision, an idea, and some assumptions are enough to start working on the canvas.

However, this workshop is also valuable if you have an existing solution. It will help assess the changes in the customers’ behavior and identify new channels and triggers.

How long does it take to run a Problem-Solution Fit Canvas workshop?

The duration of the workshop depends on many factors, such as: 

  • the number of participants: the more participants, the more discussions
  • the maturity of the project: if you’re working on an existing solution, you might already have some answers at hand and know better your customer
  • market’s knowledge: if exploring a new market, participants might need some time to gather proper data

The Problem-Solution Fit Canvas workshop can take 2 to 8 hours with a group of 2 to 15 participants. Dividing it into shorter sessions offers the advantage of gathering missing data between sessions. Nonetheless, it is worth facilitating the whole experience in a short timeframe, such as a week, to keep momentum and focus on the topic high. 

What's the difference between the Lean Canvas and the Problem-Solution Fit Canvas?

The Lean Canvas documents the business plan of a solution as a whole. The Problem-Solution Fit Canvas digs deeper into the customer’s problem and analyses its intent to buy and solve it.

Furthermore, the Problem-Solution Fit Canvas can directly translate into actionable plans for the marketing team. Both activities are complementary.

Running the Problem-Solution Fit Canvas first will give your participants insights into how the idea could fit reality and help fill most of the Lean Canvas sections.

Written by Sophia

Passionate about how people build things together, Sophia has dedicated her academic and professional work to understanding group collaboration in a remote setting. Today, she is the founder of Excelway.
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