Karen Dillon talks jobs-to-be-done at the Stern Strategy Group. Karen has co-authored a couple books, How to Measure Your Life and Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice, with Clayton Christensen and others.
The first 8 minutes or so of the talk wasn’t all that new to me. It includes some dynamite anecdotes from How to Measure Your Life, like the job-to-be-done of a dining room table via Bob Moesta. The bulk of the transcription is from the second half of the talk, and has more examples from the newest book Competing Against Luck. Jobs-to-be-done is a fascinating theory, and Karen really presents it way that keeps you curious. Watch or listen to the full talk here.
This is a Playstation 4. Who do you think is Sony’s biggest competitor?
Possibly Xbox. It’s what almost always gets mentioned. I remember two or three years ago they were both coming out with different versions and in the paper, you could see side-by-side comparisons of the price, all the features and benefits, who was doing better in the Christmas sales.
In what world is this a competitor of Playstation? [shows a photo of bottles of wine is showing]
In mine it is. Or this? [shows a photo of ice cream]
These are competing to be hired by me or you to help me relax after a stressful day of work.
If you don’t even know what you’re competing with, how can you be the superior offering?
You’re not just competing with the traditional offerings of things because people are hiring you, your product or service, to fulfill a job to be done in their lives.
Now, we have a very specific definition of a job. It’s not just intended to be a cute term or a generic term for innovation.
We think jobs are specifically the progress a person is trying to make in a particular circumstance.
And you have to understand, both the progress they’re trying to make and the circumstance to innovate successfully for that job.
What’s critical is they don’t just have functional dimensions. It’s not just trying to get something done functionally.
There are very important social and emotional dimensions as well. You’ve all hired this conference for a reason.
And it probably has social and emotional dimensions that are quite important that are far beyond the function of I want to be in a conference room all day learning about development and in-house lawyering.
How do you feel when you see a doctor’s examination room? [shows photo of examination room]
It’s perfectly functional. It has everything the doctor needs to quickly come in and examine you.
The social and emotional components of the job-to-be-done here are far more significant than the functional ones. No patient would ever design a room like that.
You sit on the crinkly paper, you already feel kind of vulnerable and anxious. The windows are closed already.
You hear people walking outside the door in sort of hush tones, are they coming, and you’re sort of sitting in the johnny. You feel vulnerable. This room makes people feel vulnerable.
You would never design this room from scratch, if you were thinking about the job-to-be-done from the patient’s perspective.
We talked to the head of innovation at a huge health care chain in America, called Intermountain Healthcare. And he had overseen dozens and dozens of innovation projects in his career.
He said until the moment he sat on the table like that as a patient, he was preparing for knee surgery, it hadn’t occurred to him that the innovations that he created (software) would have emotional and social components as well.
The difference between having a doctor turn away from you to type into a computer and a doctor keeping eye contact with you the whole time are enormous to the patient.
Tiny gestures that connect with people emotionally at a moment when they’re feeling vulnerable.
Jobs-to-be-done aren’t just functional. They’re social and emotional.
To illustrate an unusual job to be done, this is an air mattress [shows photo] in a spare room.
Who on earth would say this competes with hotels?
It’s certainly not better than a hotel room. You will not be surprised when I say Airbnb, which in December, was given a $24 billion valuation.
That’s because Airbnb, at least in the beginning, isn’t competing with hotels. People hire an Airbnb for very different reasons than they would a hotel room.
I’m staying in an Airbnb for this trip to London. There is no reason, you could guess by my demographic or me standing here with what I’m wearing, why would I choose an Airbnb when I could’ve stayed in this beautiful hotel.
Social and emotional. I used to live in London. I don’t like to feel like a tourist when I come back to a place I used to live.
I want to be able to stay in my old neighborhood. I want my kids, who are with me, to be able to see their friends.
Our Airbnb is certainly not nicer than this hotel, but the far more important dimensions I was hiring for were social and emotional.
Where do you find jobs-to-be-done?
This sounds great, but how do I see them? How do I recognize when people are trying to solve something in their lives?
You look for what people are struggling to accomplish. And you often see it with crazy workarounds.
Or nonconsumption, choosing to do nothing rather than hire something that is inadequate for the job.
Think back to our condo buyers. People did not move homes even though it was far less work to be a retired person in a beautiful condo unit with a clubhouse and a pool, all the things you get from a condo association.
Nonconsumption. I’d rather suffer with what I have than choose something that doesn’t really solve the job-to-be-done for me better.
Workarounds. People doing crazy things to solve problems should be a real clue to you that there is an opportunity to innovate something.
Look for struggles. People are struggling to make progress in their lives. Personally or professionally, and you can help them solve those.
The co-founder of Intuit, Scott Cook, told me that for four years they ignored the fact that many of their customers told them that they were jerry-rigging Quicken, the personal financial software, to use for their small business.
He just thought they were people that were cheap or people who didn’t want to look for the very sophisticated accounting software that was on the market. Because what was on the market seemed very good to him.
It was so sophisticated it created books almost like a professional accountant would for you. But for four years they didn’t pay attention that constantly people said they were doing this crazy workaround with Quicken to use it for their small business.
Until it finally clicked, the job-to-be-done for many people is not to create sophisticated books that look like an accountant did it. The job-to-be-done is I don’t want to have to do this at all. I don’t want this to be hard. I want to make sure money comes in and money goes out. I don’t want to have to hire someone to do it. The job-to-be-done is to make this as painless as possible for me.
This is Scott Cook’s quote to me, “half the functionality, twice the price.”
It was the market leader just a few months after launching and continued to be so.
In fact, what Intuit is working on now, they’re so focused in on the job-to-be-done for their customers, they’re working on the form you fill out for TurboTax.
Every year they would add questions to the TurboTax form. Chapters, I think they called them depending on what level of taxes you were trying to file.
And every year they were trying the perfect combination of questions to ask to generate perfect tax returns. And they got longer and longer.
They started thinking again, what is the job-to-be-done for these taxes or tax returns?
The job-to-be-done is I don’t want to have to do my taxes. I don’t want to sit there and put in a 100 answers to 100 questions. That’s very stressful for me.
That makes me anxious, what if I make a mistake. The job-to-be-done is make my taxes done without having to make me worry about it.
So now they have a big hairy audacious goal to do taxes before people without them having to put that information in. That’s crazy. How do you do that?
Well, guess what, they’re starting down the path of figuring out how do we get permissions from the paystubs, the companies that send the paychecks. How do we get permissions to get access to your investments and things like that.
Can we auto-populate this information for you, so you start with something that is closer than being done and we can minimize the questions for you.
The goal is, and I think they might get there, is make this job-to-be-done easy for me. The progress I want to make is I don’t want to be stressed out about my taxes. I want them to be accurate and I want them to be filed on time, and I don’t want to do them.
They’re on their way because they have focused on the job-to-be-done not the functionality of their product.
Sometimes the job-to-be-done is removing obstacles from people who are trying to make progress doing something.
These are actually pictures from a company called Medtronic, a medical device company, that makes pacemakers among other things.
And they were trying to introduce pacemakers into their Indian market, which should, sadly, be a really ripe market for pacemakers because of the prevalence of heart disease. But not many people were getting pacemakers.
They created fabulous pacemakers and the doctors who implanted them thought they were terrific. But it turned out for the people getting the pacemakers, it was an overwhelming thing to think about.
How do I navigate the medical system for the pacemaker? A lot of it’s personal payment, how do I get the money to do the pacemaker? How do I navigate through the various hospitals?
So Medtronic focused not on the pacemaker itself, it was a superior product, but how do we remove the obstacles for both doctors and patients to getting these pacemakers in.
They did things like setup free community clinics where people could come and be diagnosed to whether or not they were at least a candidate for it. Compared to some of the doctor visits people traditionally have which would be 30 seconds or a minute, and a pacemaker would never come up in that.
So they created free clinics. They created positions in the hospital, they called Sherpas, where the Sherpas job was to help people navigate the system. From the financial aspect of it to the medical care before, during, and after the surgery.
They took away the anxiety of people who were trying to decide whether or not the pacemaker would save their life, or in the case of a lot of the patients their family’s life.
It turns out families felt incredibly responsible for their elders. And they wanted to make sure they had the money, so their elders always have the opportunity to get a pacemaker if it would be better for them.
They found ways that had nothing to do with the innovation itself to make it more successful by removing the obstacles.
So now I ask you again, from this perspective, how can you be more innovative?
I really haven’t talked about technology at all. Yes, the Intuit product is a software product, but most of what I’m talking about has nothing to do with the skills to be able to program something or create something high-tech.
It’s understanding people and the progress they’re trying to make in its full functional, emotional, and social components.
That probably changes things from your perspective dramatically.
Help me make progress. Think about your job.
They are lots of ways people are trying to hire you in their department to try to help them make progress. And they’re probably not all or even primarily functional.
They’re looking for emotional and social jobs-to-be-done.
Does your CEO hire you to give definitive, perfect, legal advice?
Or does he hire you, so he can sleep well at night?
Does he hire you because he doesn’t want to be the person second-guessing everything?
Does he or she hire you, so they won’t go over the edge?
Do they hire you because you’re the truth teller?
You have to know the answer to that question if you’re going to be effective at your job.
You can innovate in 100 ways that have nothing to do with a keyboard if you understand the progress people around you are trying to make.