Monday, May 22, 2017

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice

Why would you hire a milkshake? It may be because you want something to easily eat and occupy you on a morning commute. Or, you may want to "give in" to a child and spend some time together. In one case, the milkshake is a better alternative to a donut. In another, it is competing with a toy store. Both are very different reasons for hiring. Understanding the purpose that the milkshake is fulfilling helps to better serve the customers and sell more milkshakes.

Competing Against Luck primarily uses anecdotes from various organizations to show how the jobs theory can help in making decisions about innovating. Successful new products and services help perform "jobs" that people need. These jobs may not be easily apparent in standard market research. Sometimes, there may be other factors in play that were not evident when looking at the original problem. (For example, high tech solutions may help doctor's complete activities in treating their patients. However, the emotional connection is even more important, and the technology gets in the way of their role of relating to the patient.) Often, people will not know they have a need for something new and may reject the thought of it. (American Girls dolls were panned in the initial market research, but went on to become hugely successful.)

"Objective" data can be a tricky thing, especially for ongoing operations. Everyone can use data to tell their story. However, behind the data are a series of qualitative judgement. Somebody chose what data to collect and how to measure it. People often feel they are getting "the facts", but they are really just getting numbers that were generated based on a number of opinions. (The numerical "facts" do give an air of authority even though they are often no better than opinionated judgments.)

Jobs theory can be summarized as "know the deeper meaning of why something is being done." Problems can arise when companies look at the surface reason and miss out on the true actions. Railroads faltered as they thought people were hiring them because they wanted rail travel. In fact, people just wanted a mechanism to move from point A to B. When better alternatives were available, they migrated away from rail. Similarly, there are many times where people (or individuals) don't realize the true purpose for which things are done. A job to be done is typically described in nouns and verbs. It is also provided in a general sense that can be replaced by something outside the current industry. The "job to be done" can help to explore the deeper reason for why things are done throughout life - and can also help explain some of the failures and successes we see in this world.

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