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How to align an organization with Common Growth Opportunities

Research results of the innovation benchmarking study “innovate! new” show that the link between (overall) corporate strategy and innovation strategy is a key success factor for growth and innovation. To achieve innovation excellence, the entire organization needs to perform like an orchestra, in which each individual contributes to a superordinate goal – the common growth targets and strategy.

In practice there are several obstacles to achieve this alignment, especially when it comes to radical innovations. When a company tries to conquer new territory through radical innovation strategies, it has to align the organization with common objectives for value creation in a solution space that does not exist yet – and sometimes is even hard to imagine today!

Projecting technologies it is enough to understand future customer needs

Many companies try to solve this problem with a technology-oriented approach: They sketch scenarios for technologies they use today and project how these technologies will change shape in the future. A car manufacturer, for example, could ask what a future car could look like, what technology it would be built on, and then develop the necessary capabilities and technologies to build this future car. But this approach fails to consider future customer needs, as the form or (e-)technology of a car may not be enough to win in future mobility markets. What if cars are no longer the key technology in the future mobility ecosystem?

While technology evolves, the higher-level customer needs stay constant. People will have the job to get from destination A to B, be it in an efficient or convenient way, independent from the technology they use. Thus, a more promising approach could be to develop an innovation strategy based on future customer needs. But how can customer needs be described independent from technological developments and how can they be extrapolated into the future?

Jobs-to-be-Done enables aligning incremental and radical innovation initiatives

The concept of Jobs-to-be-Done introduces a framework that can be used to solve these questions. The key of this concept is to identify the Job-to-be-Done that stands “behind” any product or service. This Job-to-be-Done describes what customers are really trying to achieve when they are using a product or service – in other words, it describes the underlying purpose of the product or service. This purpose stays constant over a relatively long period of time. What changes, are the products and the technologies used to fulfil this specific purpose.

Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) can be defined very narrowly (that is: close to existing products) and will then serve as a starting point for incremental innovations. They can also be defined very broadly (that is: independent from existing products) – and applied in this way, jobs-to-be-done act as a reference frame for radical innovations. In the moment a company focuses on a broadly defined JTBD, the “innovation horizon” opens up dramatically.

One and the same Job-to-be-Done can be viewed from different “flight altitudes”, opening up different spaces for innovation and strategy formulation. For example, medical device company Roche Diabetes Care could choose to formulate a JTBD very broadly as “Managing Diabetes” or narrowly as “Keeping blood sugar levels in a desired range”. Both definitions are equally valid as they are completely free from existing products or services; and they both act as a reference frame to identify underserved customer needs.

A company that reframes a corporate-level JTBD from different “flight altitudes”, allows itself to derive appropriate innovation strategies for incremental, short-term innovation with long-term developments. But it also allows to align innovation across departments: since a Job-to-be-Done is so universally valid, it can be used to align strategies and activities throughout product planning, research & development, marketing and sales.

Creating value for present and future customers

The final link to operationalizing an innovation strategy is to identify the key performance indicators that customers use to measure their own performance in a JTBD. Let’s call these indicators the “desired outcomes”. There are only three ways to get a job done better: faster, more stable and more efficient. Innovators need to identify these desired outcomes that a group of target customers have. Only then, companies will know how to measurably create more value from the customers point of view.

If you want to learn how Marco De Polo from Roche Diabetes Care uses the Jobs-to-be-Done framework to create innovation strategies and align different departments, join the JTBD Virtual Master Class Advanced on October 20, 2020!

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