Some people believe that the most innovative companies create customer demand with breakthrough new offerings. They say things like, “Nobody knew they needed an iPhone until Apple created it. Apple created needs that people didn’t even know they had.” Hence, if you want to be an innovation leader, strive to create customer needs. This may sound good, but it’s a misbelief caused by confusing product solutions with customer needs. Get this right or suffer high failure rates and missed opportunities.
Theodore Levitt illustrated the difference best when he said, “People don’t want to buy a ¼ inch drill; they want a ¼ inch hole!” The drill is a solution while the customer need is the job of “making a ¼ inch hole.” Customer needs are separate and distinct from product/service solutions. The breakthrough jobs-to-be-done (JTBD) innovation approach is based on this insight.
JTBD is a breakthrough because now, for the first time, companies can obtain a comprehensive set of customer needs in virtually any market separate and distinct from solutions. We no longer have to rely upon observational research to discover customers’ “unarticulated” needs. It turns out customers can tell us what they want if we ask them what they want to accomplish, feel and experience rather than asking them for product/service specifications.
Additionally, JTBD enables companies to identify and rank the best opportunities in the market with statistical validity. This is nirvana for any leader who wants to turn innovation and growth into a repeatable business process. It provides great confidence about where to focus and what to do to drive innovation and growth. This is consistent with Steve Jobs who said, “You have to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology.” It’s why skilled JTBD practitioners are delivering success rates 2-5 times higher than industry averages.
The iPhone did not create the need to check email, make phone calls, find information on the internet, and do a myriad of other jobs; it enabled people to do these jobs better than ever before.
The iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer did not create needs either; it addressed the current need for testers to keep their distance from others.
Zoom Video Conferencing did not create demand for online meetings; they created a technology that helps us to conduct online meetings more easily.
New jobs are constantly emerging due to change such as new knowledge, new technologies, new laws and regulations, and health threats like COVID-19. COVID-19 has created dozens if not hundreds of new jobs to be done such as:
- Determine if a person is infected, which has created a demand for diagnostic tests
- Identify those with whom infected people have interacted, which has created a demand for “tracers”
- Prevent people from contracting the disease through interpersonal contact, which has created a demand for personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Prevent airborne infections inside, which has created a demand for better air filters and ventilation
- Keep surfaces clean, which has created a demand for better disinfectants and “no-touch” processes
- Sanitize items and/or surfaces that liquids might damage such as phones, car interiors, wallets and other accessories which has created a demand for UV light sanitizing wands
- Retail organizations have had to move their physical value delivery systems to online systems which have created a demand for online technologies such as Zoom, online classes, Telemedicine, e-commerce, etc.
Certainly, an enormous amount of operational change has been required to adjust to the current environment. In the midst of all that internal change, the companies that will thrive going forward will be those that keep their eyes on their customers’ and employees’ changing needs to help guide operational changes. Customers and employees are relying on management to provide them with the processes, systems, and tools they need to fulfill the brand promise. That means identifying:
- New jobs that have emerged among customers and employees and how they measure success getting those new jobs done
- New priorities/values that are changing the way customers and employees want to get their “old” jobs done
- How customers and employees measure success when obtaining/delivering service remotely
If you want to identify the opportunities for new value creation in your market(s) or among your employees – be it to shore up a core business, find new opportunities to exploit, or deliver an online experience that delights customers – we can help.
Reveal needs. Create value. Drive growth.
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