‘… for Customer-Centered Innovation’ part five

By Stephen WunkerJessica Wattman, and David Farber
Published by Amacom
ISBN: 9780814438039
Ebook ISBN: 9780814438084
Copyright © 2017 by Stephen Wunker

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The Jobs to be Done framework succeeds because it focuses innovators on the right questions rather than having them jump directly to devising solutions. This can be counterintuitive. After all, countless stories celebrating genius emphasize the moment of problem-solving insight. But it is actually the framing of problems that often leads to breakthrough ideas. Companies can waste thousands of hours and risk undertaking bad projects because they miss the critical—and often underappreciated—step of laying out very clear and rigorously defined problem statements.

Breakthroughs come from reimagining problems, not from creating an incrementally better solution to a well-understood challenge. To help people look at their challenges in a different way, we tell them to dig into the underlying “why” of consumer behavior and not just focus on the “what.” For instance, parents may choose to bring their children to a movie on a Saturday afternoon, but the underlying job is to keep the kids entertained. A movie is just one possible way of satisfying that job. Job drivers—the underlying context that makes certain jobs more or less important—will influence customers’ choices in how they satisfy a job. In the movie example, the age of the children or the weather that day might make a difference in how the job of entertaining children is satisfied. The movie theater’s true competition is not merely other cinemas but also playgrounds, arcades, and other diversions. While offering a discount on ticket prices or a better array of snacks might help compete against the cinema across town, these solutions ultimately represent a superficial way of thinking about competition. A better way to win might be to set up a small indoor playground or to offer a space for socializing with dates after a movie ends. By understanding the real motivators of behavior, a company can uncover new markets and previously ignored levers of innovation at its disposal.


This section of the book shows how to construct the Jobs Atlas—the overall look at the landscape that is a prerequisite to plotting routes to any specific solution and indeed may reveal destinations you have previously overlooked. Chapters 1 through 3 provide the tools for understanding what jobs your customers are looking to get done, why they prioritize some jobs over others, and what pain points prevent them from being satisfied with the solutions they currently use. Chapters 4 and 5 build on today’s landscape to explore how to create solutions that correspond to a customer-generated definition of success, as well as what obstacles stand in the way of buying or using a new product. In Chapters 6 and 7, we look at how to capture value from that change. This includes understanding how expensive new products can be and how new business models can be used to increase value for both the customer and the company. We also explore how to take a broader view of competition, looking from the customer’s eyes rather than an industry lens.

We urge you not to skip chapters but to look at each part of the process as a key element toward building a well-rounded view of the opportunity. Equally, as you execute projects, we urge you not to jump to creating solutions before laying out this opportunity landscape in detail. While you will inevitably think of ideas as you learn more about the market, jot them down, and don’t tempt yourself to fall in love with any particular notion. By the time you are done, you should have an abundant array of solutions stemming from a full understanding of the landscape. They may even appear obvious to you until you realize that you didn’t have these ideas before you started the process.




IN THE LATE 1990s, Stephen led one of the world’s first smartphone development projects. His team at Psion PLC combined the innards of the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), which Psion had originally invented in the 1980s, with telephony components from Motorola to create a device with a long list of features. The team was incredibly excited about all of the things the new device could do. You could even send a fax from your phone! But customers were confused, the technical complexity was overwhelming, and the device was quite costly.

Around the same time, a Canadian company called Research in Motion was taking a different approach, focusing on a simple hierarchy of jobs that people wanted to get done with a smartphone. Their product—the Blackberry—did far fewer things and was much less stylish. But it dominated the field for the next seven years—an eon in that industry.

The key to the Blackberry’s success wasn’t great technology or clever advertisements. It wasn’t about getting the priorities of the customer right; Stephen’s team had been diligent about asking people what they wanted (“Maps!” “Games!”). Rather, the Research in Motion effort triumphed because it looked at customers the right way, focusing on a single critical job to be done: keeping in touch through email.

Jobs help you to focus on what really matters, rather than trying to add on cool features that muddle the customer experience and make the product less compelling. It is a concept that Stephen really wished he had known about when he designed that device.


* Why to focus on jobs over past purchase behavior.

* How to win on both the functional and emotional levels.

* How understanding jobs can lead to the better design of products, services, and business models.


When thinking about how to launch a new product or bring in new customers, too many companies focus on what people are currently buying. They use existing purchase data to define their markets quite narrowly. They begin to think of themselves as booksellers and PC companies. Then when sales dip or management makes aggressive growth demands, they end up asking the wrong questions. How can we sell more books? How can we build a better PC? This tunnel-visioned approach to market definition creates a very small solution space, and it can blind companies to threats from untraditional sources.

Customers’ jobs exist independently from what people are buying, making it essential to see the world from the customer’s perspective rather than from the vantage of a company that happens to be selling something. As the late Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt famously told his students, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.””

(This excerpt from Jobs to be Done by Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman, and David Farber ends on page 27 jobs of the hardcover.)


In a challenging economy filled with nimble competitors, no one can afford to stagnate. Yet, innovation is notoriously difficult. Only 1 in 100 new products are successful enough to cover development costs, and even fewer impact a company’s growth trajectory. So how do you pinpoint the winning ideas that customers will love?

Jobs to Be Done gives you a clear-cut framework for thinking about your business and a roadmap for discovering new markets, products, services, and creative opportunities to innovate your way to success.


STEPHEN WUNKER worked with Clayton Christensen for years, building out consulting practices based on his teachings. He now runs New Markets Advisors. He has written for ForbesHarvard Business Review, and The Financial Times.

JESSICA WATTMAN leads New Markets’ social innovation practice. She has applied Jobs principles in work from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.


DAVID FARBER is a manager at New Markets. An avid hiker and traveler, he has explored six continents.

This week’s selection ‘Jobs to Be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation’ By Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman, and David Farber appears Monday thru Friday and comes to you courtesy of dearreader.com and BurlingtonPublicLibrary.ca Business Online Book Club.

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