And he did that to explain why some of the biggest and leading technology companies of the day failed to catch the next wave of innovation in their industries and went out of business. The book is called Competing Against Luck. He spoke about it to an audience in London recently, where he was interviewed by the editor of Harvard Business Review, Amy Bernstein.
Christensen began by speaking about his theory of jobs to be done, giving an example from a well-known fast food chain. They have data about— up the gazoo about anything you need. And they had a demographic profile of the quintessential milkshake customer. Actually, I fit the profile perfectly. And so they would invite people like me into offices, explain that they were trying to improve the milkshakes so that people will buy more of them. Can you give us any guidance? And the customers would give them very clear guidance. They would then improve the milkshake, and the impact on sales or profits was negligible.
So we convinced them, as this idea of the jobs to be done began to emerge in our minds, if they would let us put that lens on to understand milkshakes. What was he wearing? Was he alone?
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Did he buy other food with it? Did he eat the milkshake in the restaurant or get in the car and go off with it? And it turned out that about half of the milkshakes were sold before in the morning. It was the only thing they bought, they were always alone, and they always got in the car and drove off with it. So to figure out what was the job, we came back the next morning and we positioned ourself outside the restaurant so that we can confront these people as they were emerging with their milkshake. Try this. What did you hire?
And it turned out, that they all had the same job to do. That is, they had a long and boring drive to work. And they just needed something to have while they were driving to stay engaged with life and not fall asleep. So I also need something that will just go thunk and stay there for the morning. And one guy said, you know, I never thought about it this way before, but last Friday, I hired a banana to do the job.
Take my word for it— never hire bananas. Yeah, as you can say, I hire donuts a lot. I can never hire just one. But that creates problems on their own. And I do bagels sometimes, but bagels are dry and tasteless. And so I have to steer the car with my knees while I put the cream cheese on.
It takes 23 minutes to suck it up that thin little straw. And it actually fits right here in this cupholder. And the competitors are not just Burger King milkshakes. And that essentially is between a parent and a child. Would you please let them know how much I care for them? And understanding what the job is puts you on a very different trajectory.
So how could you improve the milkshake for the morning job to be done? It turns out that the reason why they had been worked so hard to get input from the customer and it had no impact on sales or profits is that they had been improving the milkshake on dimensions of performance that were irrelevant to the job to be done. You probably make it thicker to take longer to suck it up, and so on. Last question— how big is the milkshake market? And in the part of the market in America where they implemented this, the sales of the milkshakes increased by 7x when they improved it in ways that really connected, because competing against bananas is like duck soup.
And understanding the job to be done, we found, really helps us in making innovation predictable. Because the job exists. And if we make the job so that it does it better, we can predict that the customers will buy it. And what happens is the original job to be done, that was the basis of starting a new company. Almost always, successful companies were focused on job to be done at the beginning. And then the logic takes over.
And the logic is, well, we have these customers.
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And they use us to get a job done. Our customers have other jobs. And so maybe we ought to offer other products so that they can get those jobs done as well. And so The New York Times, the job that it was organized around, was they publish anything that was fit to print. But we have this relationship with our customers. Surely we have to offer more things. So can I hire something just to help me be productive. And for a while, you had The New York Times to read. But it was very cumbersome. And so then a company called Metro came.
Just a simple product you could go from beginning to end in about 25 minutes. And now we have smartphones. But we hire those things to get that job to be done. The New York Times had personal advertisers. Now you can hire Craigslist.
Sometimes I need to buy a car. Sometimes I have a car I want to sell. And so The New York Times offered advertisements to get that job done, too. I need a job, or I need to hire somebody to fill a job. Athletic competition helps young people grow in confidence, loyalty, teamwork, sportsmanship and skill.
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