How to Create Products People Will Actually Buy?

Michael Skok

Creating a product that resonates with consumers, solves a pressing problem, and stands out in a crowded market is a formidable challenge for any innovator or entrepreneur. Michael Skok’s workshop at Harvard Innovation Labs, on product development provided a robust framework for transforming an idea into a product that people will actually buy. This blog post distills the essence of Skok’s approach into a detailed guide, aiming to change how you think, work, or make decisions to create products.

Understanding the Need for Value Propositions

The failure of many companies can be traced back to not solving a valuable enough problem. Hence, understanding how to define, evaluate, and create a compelling value proposition is crucial. A value proposition should succinctly state who the product is for, the problem it solves, and why it’s uniquely beneficial.

The Framework for Creating Compelling Products

1. Define the Problem or Opportunity

  • Start by identifying the specific group of people or segment you aim to serve. This involves understanding their unmet needs or problems.
  • Example: A digital literacy program for marginalized children without access to digital devices.

2. Evaluate the Solution

  • After defining the problem, evaluate the solution’s potential to meet these needs compellingly. Consider the user’s viewpoint and validate your assumptions by engaging directly with your target audience.

3. Build the Product

  • Move towards building a prototype or MVP (Minimum Viable Product) that addresses the core needs identified. This step is about iterating based on feedback and ensuring your solution is both practical and desirable.

Key Insights for Success

  • Ideas vs. Solutions: The real value lies not in the idea itself but in its execution and the problem it solves.
  • Understanding Your Customer: Knowing your customer deeply, including their problems, preferences, and behaviors, is foundational.
  • The Importance of User and Customer Distinction: Differentiating between the user (the one who interacts with your product) and the customer (the one who pays for it) is crucial, especially if they are not the same.

Strategies for Defining and Evaluating

  • For Whom and Why: Clearly articulate who your product is for and why it’s important for them. This helps in creating targeted solutions.
  • Problem Identification: A well-stated problem is half-solved. Spend significant time understanding and articulating the problem your product addresses.
  • The Four Us: Make sure your solution is Unworkable, Unavoidable, Urgent, and Underserved. This framework helps in prioritizing and focusing on problems worth solving.
  • Evaluating Through User Eyes: Always evaluate your solution through the lens of your user. Their feedback and perspective are invaluable in refining your product.


Creating products that people will actually buy is a complex, multi-step process that requires a deep understanding of your target user, a clear articulation of the problem you’re solving, and a compelling value proposition. By following the framework and insights outlined above, you can increase the likelihood of your product finding a receptive audience and achieving success in the market. Remember, the key to innovation is not just about having a groundbreaking idea but about solving real problems in a way that is tangible, measurable, and, above all, valuable to your target audience.