Topic: Strategy

Job to Be Done

I spent a chunk of last weekend reading How Will You Measure Your Life?. My favourite idea was a "job to be done". For me, it's one of the more interesting ways to think.

It's the idea that customers are trying to achieve something when they buy your product. People don't buy beds because they need a bed, they buy a bed because they want a place to sleep. They are hiring a bed, because they believe it will do the job the best.

You don't need a bed to sleep but it's probably more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. So, you opt for a bed.

It seems obvious, build products that solve people's problems. Yet, every year, it gets harder and harder to break through the noise. On paper, that doesn't make sense. It's never been easier to know about your customers, where they are coming from, how much they earn, where they live.

Yes, that's largely thanks to Facebook and Google but I think there's an issue with making decisions with purely data. Especially when you're not looking for the why behind it.

I think it comes down to correlation vs. causation. Even with a ton of data, without structured experiments, it's hard to prove causation. For many businesses, the best you get is say "68% of our customers come from Facebook". But why Facebook? Why were they there and what job were they looking to get done?

Maybe another channel would be a better place to find customers, if you knew what job they were looking to get done while being there.

Characteristics don't make people buy products. You buy things because it's fulfilling a need. Probably an emotional and social need.

What job is your product doing? And why is it better than the competition?

Maybe, just maybe, we don't always need more data. Maybe, we should just ask "what job are you hiring this product for? And how could it do the job better?"

My favourite products help me solve a problem. And so do the best businesses. They're all built off the back of solving a problem that had a limited or no solution at all beforehand.

But to build great products, you need to understand what problems (jobs) your customers are trying to solve. I don't think that comes from data analysis. I think that comes from reaching out and asking.

When you order an Uber, you are inadvertently deciding against catching a cab. And usually, it's not because you don't like cabs. It's because there's less friction in pulling out your phone than trying to hail down a cab.

I know this is true because when there's lots of cabs around (like in the CBD), my friend's stop pulling out their phones and starting hailing.

They're looking to reduce friction and get a job done. Not catch an Uber or a cab.

In the end, it's about getting something done. And if your product does that better than everyone else, you're on the right path.