Competing Against Luck by Clayton Christensen

What causes a customer to purchase and use a particular product or service?

Table of Contents


Correlation is not the same as causality

The masses of data that companies accumulated are not organized in a way that enables them to predict which ideas will succeed. For examples, your height, age, shoe size, shopping habits,… don’t necessarily cause you to buy this or that product. There might be a correlation between some of collected characteristics and the tendency of customers who purchase the same product. However, they don’t cause you to go and buy them.

Introducing Job Theory

Instead of trying to find patterns and cross-references in the data sets of a product, it’s better to figure out what its job function actually is. Essentially, when we buy a product, we hire it to get a job done in a specific circumstance or to make the progress we were struggling to achieve. For example, some people use Netflix because they want to be entertained, some use it to kill time, some use it for educational purposes. Depending on the context and their unique circumstances, they hire Netflix to do different jobs which might not match what Netflix creators make it to do.

That said, a job is defined as the progress that one is trying to make in a particular circumstance (where you at, when it is, what you are doing, who you are with, and so on). However, not only does a job has functional dimensions (what it does), it also has social and emotional dimensions. For example, the job function could be to hire childcare because of your busy schedule, the emotional dimensions then depend on who will you trust with your children.

Job insights are more like stories and statistics

One helpful way to grasp a job function is to go through this list of questions:

Applying Job Theory

5 ways to search for unresolved jobs

Social and emotional dimensions are just important as functional dimensions

Sometimes, faster, more features, more colors,… are not what customers want, but the ease of using might. Let’s take P&G’s example when they introduced diapers to China. They already knew how to sell to Western customers and assumed that if the diaper were affordable enough in developing country like China, it could be sold easily. However, it did not take off. After years of research, they realized that they focused too much on the functional aspect without taking into account the social and emotional dimensions of customer’s struggle. They found that babies who wore diapers fell asleep 30% faster and slept longer every night. Not only better sleep improved children’s cognitive development, because the babies had slept, parents could also have more time to rest and sleep as well. Using this finding explicitly in the ads and launch eventually made P&G a top-selling brand in China.

What customers hire is equally important as what they fire

The moment customers buy the product is equally important as the moment they actually consume it. There are 2 main forces that battle in their mind:

Customers might not be able to tell you what they want but can tell you about their struggles

Before launching, Airbnb storyboarded 45 different emotional moments for their hosts and guests in details. They tried to look for surprises, unexpected behavior, unusual product uses, product limitations, and so on because those were incredibly important to develop a more attractive product.

“One of the critical storyboard moments, for example, is the first Little Hire moment for guests-when they first turn up at the home in which they’ll stay. How are they greeted? If they’re expecting a place that has been described as relaxing, is that evident? Maybe there should be soft music playing or a scented candle, says Airbnb’s Chip Conley. Has the host made them feel at ease with their decision? Has the host made clear how they will solve any issues or problems that arise during the stay? And so on. The experience must match the customers’ vision of what they hired Airbnb to do. The Airbnb storyboards—which have been constantly tweaked and improved since its founding—reflect the importance of the combination of pushes and pulls that drive their customers’ Big Hires and Little Hires.”

Once you figure out the job function, you want to create the desired experience

If you can successfully nail the job, you can transform your company’s brand into a purpose branch such that customers automatically associate with your solutions:


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Tagged: #book, #innovation, #customer