Customer’s Jobs to Be Done


Why is innovation is so hard to predict and sustain? Why some myriads of analytics; quantitative, regression, factor analysis still not able to predict innovation?

Those are quote un quote questions from the recent book authored by Prof Clayton Christensen et al, titled: “Competing Against Luck; The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice”. It’s a book on how innovation can be invented, and not just being a luck. The book was published in last quarter 2016 and became a best seller in the rack of management and business books.

In January 2017, I ran an Innovation Facilitators camp to share new learning from the latest insights in innovation management. It’s a series of continuing education; seminar, workshop, and training to build the competencies and capabilities of Innovation Facilitators. And the hot topic that we learned was (Customer’s) Jobs To Be Done, with me serving as the main speaker and facilitator of the camp.

Even though the term Jobs To Be Done is not engraved on the book cover, the whole book contains the Job (to be done) Theory. One of the chapters explains a unique observation on why do people hire a milkshake?

“The Milk Shake Dilemma” chapter, tells a story about a project on how to sell more milkshake for a fast-food chain restaurant. It’s told that they spent months studying and observing the customers why they buy the milkshake. Numbers of interviews and throwing questions to customers were conducted, like “Can you tell us how to improve our milk shake sales?”, “How do you want your milkshake? Chocolatier? Chunkier? etc. But then they realized that it was still difficult to explain why do customers buy milk shake.

Until then they came up with a different way of asking the customers: “what job arises in people’s lives that cause them to come to this restaurant to “hire” a milk shake”? It came out that people are hiring the milk shake to perform a specific job in their lives. People who come into the fast-food restaurant in the morning are commuters who have a long and boring ride to work. They needed something to keep their commute interesting. A milk shake gives them a long time to finish, with that thin straw. And also it helps them to stay awake and occupied while makes the morning commute more fun! That’s the “Jobs to be done”.

So, “Job” is shorthand for what an individual really seeks (PROGRESS) to accomplish in a given circumstance. You have to understand the “Job” the customer is trying to do in specific circumstances. Understanding the cause is more important than the solutions. Jobs is very different from the traditional marketing concept of “Needs” or “Wants”. Because customers can’t always articulate what they want, even when they do, their action tells a different story. So we need to change our perspective that the unit of analysis is the Job! Once you understand the customer’s Jobs to Be Done, it brings into sharp relief the true competition you face to be hired.

The book tells many stories to discover Jobs to Be Done. It also brings real case studies to help us understand more why innovation is not about being lucky. Later in the chapters, the book argues about what are the competing set of a product to be hired by customers, and how to explore the list of jobs the customers do.

So, don’t wait no more. Hire the book to make a progress in your business and work.

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