Pitching ideas is hard. This makes ideas die too early – even brilliant ones.
Procosoco is a simple way to pitch almost any* idea. It makes your ideas easier to understand – and, as a bonus, improves the quality of the ideas.
* I don’t actually have any data to support this, it is just a hypothesis at this point
The technique is simple. Just describe your idea using four sentences:
- State the problem
- Describe the consequences of the problem
- State the solution
- Describe the consequences of the solution
And that’s it! The trick is simply to structure your idea into these four sentences.
Let’s look at a few examples:
- We are hungry.
- This makes us grumpy and unproductive.
- Let’s go to lunch.
- When we’re back, we’ll be happy and productive again.
Example: A new AI model
- Today’s AI models are extremely expensive to train and run.
- This makes generative AI available only to a few large corporations.
- We present SlideRuleGPT, a new AI model that can be run on a single slide rule
- This makes generative AI available to anyone, even without Internet access.
Example: A new AI startup
- Project managers find it difficult to identify and recruit the right people to work on new projects.
- This leads to projects being delayed or fail.
- We provide an AI bot that reads the project plans and identifies the perfect people for each project.
- This makes projects complete faster and with better results.
So the general structure is this:
I’d like to call this technique
Procosoco, which simply is a contraction of “problem / consequence / solution / consequence”.
The origin for this technique is a brief comment by Kent Beck on how to write effective abstracts for research papers. The comment appears in a post from 1993 titled “How to get a paper accepted at OOPSLA”. The comment is:
I try to have four sentences in my abstract. The first states the problem. The second states why the problem is a problem. The third is my startling sentence. The fourth states the implication of my startling sentence.
I read this some 20+ years ago, and have since found this technique useful not only for writing research abstracts, but as a general tool for conveying ideas.
The technique can also be used to help development and testing of ideas. If it is difficult to express your idea with this four-sentence structure, that is an indication that the idea needs more work.
Is it difficult to express what problem your idea is solving? Others will feel it equally difficult to understand what problem is being solved and they won’t see how it could help them. So you need to work more on the defining the problem.
Is it difficult to express the consequences of your solution? Then others may reject your idea since they don’t understand how it will make their life better. Then work more on your solution – or maybe try a different solution?
Let’s look at a few use cases.
Use Case: Writing Papers
When writing papers, this framework is useful both as a starting point and as a way to structure the abstract and the introduction.
The abstract can be structured exactly as those four sentences. At least the first version – you may always expand or rework later. The introduction can be structured as a longer version: the first paragraph describes the problem, the second paragraph describes the consequences of the problem, the third paragraph goes into detail on the solution, and the fourth paragraph states the potential consequences of the solution.
Use Case: Generating Startup Ideas
In general, it is a good idea to express startup ideas as solutions to a problem. The Procosoco technique is a good way to express your startup idea, as it includes both the problem and your solution in a succinct way.
And there is another nice benefit: it allows you to estimate the monetary value of your business, by answering the questions:
- Whose problem am I solving? and
- How much are they paying to solve that problem today?
Multiply these numbers, and you get a first-order estimate of the potential monetary value of your startup idea.
Let’s use the above AI startup idea an example. In this case, project managers is the answer to the whose problem am I solving? question. A quick google search suggests that hiring a recruiter may cost something like 20% of a candidate’s yearly salary – a good amount of money. So our business idea may be worth going forward with.
Convincing people with your ideas is hard. Procosoco is a simple four-sentence technique that makes it easier. Try it out yourself to see how well it works!