Is innovation inherently a hit-or-miss endeavor? Not if you understand why customers make the choices they do.
Firms have never known more about their customers, but their innovation processes remain hit-or-miss. Why? According to Christensen and his coauthors, product developers focus too much on building customer profiles and looking for correlations in data. To create offerings that people truly want to buy, firms instead need to home in on the job the customer is trying to get done.
Some jobs are little (pass the time); some are big (find a more fulfilling career). When we buy a product, we essentially “hire” it to help us do a job. If it does the job well, we’ll hire it again. If it does a crummy job, we “fire” it and look for something else to solve the problem.
Jobs are multifaceted. They’re never simply about function; they have powerful social and emotional dimensions. And the circumstances in which customers try to do them are more critical than any buyer characteristics. Consider the experiences of condo developers targeting retirees who wanted to downsize their homes. Sales were weak until the developers realized their business was not construction but transitioning lives. Instead of adding more features to the condos, they created services assisting buyers with the move and with their decisions about what to keep and to discard. Sales took off.
The key to successful innovation is identifying jobs that are poorly performed in customers’ lives and then designing products, experiences, and processes around those jobs.