“Customers don’t want a quarter-inch drill bit, they want a quarter-inch hole.” This simple but important insight expressed nearly half a century ago by the legendary marketing guru Theodore Leavitt is too often forgotten by corporate strategists and product developers alike. Companies work on developing new products or multiplying product features while ignoring the fundamental question: What are customers trying to get done with this product?
In recent works, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has argued that effective innovation depends on understanding what the “jobs” that customers want done with the product they buy — jobs that can be functional (e.g., that quarter-inch hole) or emotional (e.g., making a statement about one’s individuality).
Jobs to Be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation is a new book by former Christensen collaborator Stephen Wunker (and co-authored by colleagues Jessica Whitman and David Farber) that presents a step-by-step methodology for companies seeking to develop innovative solutions based on the concept of “Jobs to Be Done.”
The Roadmap to Innovative Success
At first glance, the authors’ Jobs Roadmap may not seem revolutionary. It begins with the strategy-focused step of establishing objectives, which ranges from deciding which customers to target to developing the institutional capabilities for moving forward. The next step is to planyour approach: choosing the research methods that are most likely to yield the kind of customer knowledge that offers valuable insight into the customer jobs behind the purchase decision.
The third step in the Jobs Roadmap is what the authors call Building the Jobs Atlas. The Jobs Atlas is given special consideration in the book — in fact, the authors focus nearly half of the book on building the Jobs Atlas before exploring the other Roadmap steps — and with good reason. Uncovering those elusive customer jobs is at the heart of the process, and this detective work is accomplished through the Jobs Atlas.
The Three Phases of the Jobs Atlas
The Jobs Atlas is built in three phases, write the authors: know where you’re starting from, chart the destination and roadblocks, and make the trip worthwhile.
The Know Where You’re Starting From phase includes identifying and prioritizing the jobs customers are looking to get done, which can be functional or emotional. Snapchat doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but its instant but ephemeral sharing of moments fits perfectly the emotional needs of millennials. The authors also note the importance of job drivers — the contextual factors that, according to the authors, make certain jobs more or less
important — and of customer pain points.
The second phase of the Jobs Atlas is Chart the Destination and Road Blocks. This phase covers defining success from the customers’ perspective. The genius of Snapchat, for example, is that its founders realized what customers wanted and what they didn’t need (e.g., photo-editing and search capabilities). This phase also involves determining any obstacles that might stand in the way of a purchase.
The final phase of the authors’ Jobs Atlas is to Make the Trip Worthwhile. This phase focuses on creating a business model that delivers value to both the customer and the organization. The key question, the authors ask, is, “Does the new solution satisfy jobs or alleviate pain points in such a way that it warrants a purchase?”
Having built the Jobs Atlas, companies can then travel the final three steps of the Roadmap: generate ideas, accomplished through a systematic framework linking the insights of the Jobs Atlas to new ideas for innovative solutions; reframe your perspective, which is done by recruiting external perspectives on the process; and experimentation and iteration, the phase required to finalize the solution.
Jobs to Be Done reflects the best of consulting books: a clear, practical methodology filled with real-world tools and processes built on the foundation of a brilliant insight — one that can truly make the difference between sustained success or complete failure.
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