Necessity is the Mother of Invention

30 March 2020
7 min read

“Necessity is the mother of invention,” or so one of our favourite proverbs goes. Plato’s words are as everlasting as they are true. When the need for something is essential, you are forced into a position of achieving it.

These words from Plato’s Republic may have been written more than two millennia ago, but, in the current climate, they’ve never rung truer. Indeed, this approach is at the core of tmob’s culture and thinking.

When our partners on the ‘frontline’, such as Vodafone, Vive or Turkcell encounter challenges, our first thought is of their mobility.

As a global technology powerhouse in mobile financial solutions, tmob works with clients from across the industry. Whether our partner is a high-scale enterprise or a group of visionary thinkers, they share one thing in common: challenging problems that need solving.

These businesses need a creative solution, which leads us to innovation and, more importantly, the thinking behind it.

Read on to discover how our team uses science and expertise in three key areas:

  1. Problem definition
  2. Creative-thinking
  3. Design sessions

As ever, please feel free to be a part of this conversation by contacting us with your thoughts and problems to be solved.

Problem definition

Before tackling any problem, it’s crucial to define it. Failing to do so can come at a heavy cost. In 2017 alone, failed IT projects cost the US government a staggering £32 billion.

Doing this effectively demands that all involved understand the challenges being faced and how to prioritise what’s required for them to improve.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” In a sentence, he perfectly illustrates someone who knows his outcome (a chopped tree), as well as the hurdles (dull blades) that stand in its way.

Through our years of experience delivering fintech solutions, we’ve found that most problems our clients encounter are actually very well hidden. Typically, what they consider a problem is simply a symptom of an underlying condition.

Root cause analysis is the most effective way of pinpointing the real problem. “Why” is one of our favourite words here at tmob. It really is the key to finding the best solution.

It’s a view shared by Taiichi Ohno, the pioneer of the Toyota Production System, who is said to have instructed staff to ask “why” five times on every matter. But why? Under kaizen, a method of continuous improvement, “the root cause of any problem is the key to a lasting solution.”

Another approach that is useful is 5W1H and involves asking the five Ws (who, what, where, when and why) and the all-important H (how). Here are some probing questions we find useful in these problem definition sessions.


  • Who is involved?
  • Who benefits?


  • What problems will the project solve?
  • What are the core issues?
  • What outcomes do stakeholders expect?


  • Why is the project necessary?
  • Why is the project important?


  • How do we define success?
  • How is this project aligned with our overarching strategy?

This may seem like endless questioning, but the information gathered at this early stage is invaluable in ensuring successful project delivery.

To understand why, let’s say you were taking a long road trip. Chances are that you wouldn’t even consider setting off until you knew where you were going, how you’d get there and how much you would need to budget. Without considering these crucial details, your journey, unsurprisingly, might be cut short.

When projects fail, it’s often due to unclear goals and a lack of direction. That’s why we cannot stress strongly enough that these early discussions are so crucial.

It’s impossible to predict every eventuality. However, taking time out to define and discuss your desired outcomes significantly increases your chance of successful project delivery.


Once a problem definition is agreed, it’s time to identify the solution. But how do you find it? In our experience, well-designed creative-thinking sessions can be especially effective.

Led by experienced members of our team, these well-structured, but fun, sessions feature a number of creative-thinking techniques to boost your creativity.

Brainstorming is a tool familiar to many of us and it can be especially useful when we are working with larger groups.

With this approach, the general rule is “quantity over quality”. The aim here is to generate as many ideas as possible – without judgement. Participants are free to offer any idea, no matter how unusual or disconnected. Sometimes what appears to be an absurd thought can springboard you to your ultimate solution.

This is just one of the many techniques that we use during our creative thinking sessions with clients. Other useful tools include De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, which introduces emotions and scepticism into the thought process, and Morphological Analysis, a method which systematically structures and investigates the multitude of relationships within complex problems.

For any creative-thinking session, we recommend including the following elements:

A moderator to lead discussion, ask probing questions, etc.

A presentation of the well-defined problem

A sufficient amount of background information

A mix of participants to ensure divergent points of view

A recorder to ensure every idea is noted down

And, of course, there should be fun, too.

With so many creative-thinking techniques out there to choose from, it’s crucial to find the ones which are the best fit for your team. Contact us today for recommendations on the best creative-thinking tools for your next project.

Design sessions

After so much thinking about the project and its outcomes, it’s time to start designing your solution. During our customised design sessions, our experienced team will guide you through the process – making it as easy as possible for you to reach project delivery successfully.

Agile methodologies are particularly useful in designing mobile financial solutions, as it gives our fintech clients the flexible approach they need in times like these. According to figures from PwC, Agile projects are 28% more successful than traditional projects.

Rather than traditional methodologies, agile teams are cross-functional and organise themselves. Plus, there is far less paperwork – meaning decisions are reached more quickly.

In practice, the Agile approach calls for development in stages, also known as sprints. After each ‘sprint’, a review allows for progress and efforts to be measured by the project’s stakeholders.

Reviewing at such frequent intervals allows you to plan ahead for the tasks to be included in the next sprint. In addition, it ensures that if our clients have elements or features which need changing, these can be included, too.

Better still, this reflective aspect of Agile methodologies means that clients can respond to changes within their marketplace with far less severe consequences for budgets.

Designed to “tame the change”, this multidisciplinary approach sees designers and software engineers working in close partnership. During our sessions, we’ve found that gathering so many professionals from different fields, with diverse backgrounds and knowledge, encourages holistic thinking – from the outset.

While Agile methodologies are particularly effective during design sessions, it’s important to remember that there will be elements of risks within any project. Mitigating these are crucial, so it’s important to have the right controls in place to ensure your business gets the value it needs.

Our team of experts are well-placed to support you throughout every stage of developing your mobile financial, e-banking, omni-channel and commerce-based solutions, whether you’re defining the problem, finding a solution or designing its delivery.

For further information or to discuss your next project, contact our team today. With years of experience working with the leading names of the sector, they can tell you more about our structured sessions, as well as offer helpful advice.

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