During my professional career I dedicated myself to applying Jobs-to-be-Done thinking to innovation challenges. It follows the principle that people hire products and services to help them get a job done. If we understand a job to be done as a process we can uncover desired outcomes of the job – the true customer needs – in a very structured way. Would that perspective be applicable to corporate innovation processes? How does innovation management change when the Job-to-be-Done is the unit of analysis, and not the product or technology? This blog has the objective to bring real case examples on stage and to share the Jobs-to-be-Done Philosophy and Experiences in applying Outcome-Driven Innovation®.
I work for an innovation consulting company and I’ve seen a myriad of – ideas. I’ve seen ideas that were waiting in a drawer just to have their great moment in the ideation workshop, the “spacy” out-of-the-box-thinking ideas, the swiss-army-knife ideas (in german we name it “eierlegende Wollmilchsau ;)), just to mention some archetypes. In fact, I’ve seen many thousands of promising innovation ideas. And I’ m wondering why it is still a common doctrine that a successful innovation project starts with the “right” idea. Obviously, ideas are not the bottleneck in the innovation process.
If we look at the most compelling product innovations of the last years – like Uber transportation service, Netflix streaming video, Nest Learning Thermostat, GoPro’s HD Hero Action Camera or Dyson wireless bagless vacuum cleaner, just to mention some examples from different industries – we see that they have one thing in common: their benefit is so easy to understand and to communicate that one wonders why the idea did not arise already before. Expressed in Jobs-to-be-Done language, they help customers get a job done far better and/or more cheaply than any other product existing in the market. In his article “The Jobs-to-be-Done Growth Strategy Matrix” Anthony Ulwick illustrates the Netflix example. Netflix streaming service makes it far more easy to find and consume series and movies and therefore offeres greater convenience than television or traditional rental stores. In addition, they reduced the cost of watching a movie by enabling customers to watch more content for a low monthly subscription rate. Another example is GoPro’s HD Hero Action Camera. It enables sport enthusiasts to produce their own professional action videos without filming expertise and at negligibly low cost – suddenly they are able to execute a job on their own that was reserved to full equipped and skilled professionals before. And Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner eliminated all workarounds that had nothing to do with the core job consumers hire vacuum cleaners for – like untangling annoying cable spaghetti or exchanging vacuum cleaner bags.
The secret behind these innovations is a profound and extensive understanding of customer needs. If a company knows the real pain points of its customers, it is easy to bring up an idea to delight them. Finding the felicitous idea is neither the core issue, nor it stands on the beginning of an innovation process. It is rather the result of it. Most of the common innovation methods, like creativity workshops, lead user methodology or stage-gate-processes focus mainly on creating and developing ideas. Others, like design thinking, give a high profile to understanding customer needs, but have an inherent fuzzy definition of what a customer need is and how to identify underserved customer needs. What these methods miss is a clear target where to direct the creative forces.
And here lies the strength of the Outcome-Driven Innovation Process®, an innovation process that implements the Jobs-to-be-Done thinking into entrepreneurial innovation management. Starting with a clear definition what the customer’s Job-to-de-Done really is, it analyzes it by breaking it down into job steps and identifying the outcomes customers use to measure success when trying to get their job done. Using proprietary data analyzation methods, the outcomes with highest innovation potential are identified – namely those that are important for a certain segment of customers, but not well served by existing solutions. With the target that well defined, creating a winning solution becomes far more likely.
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