Competing Against Luck in brief: Karen Dillon

Published on Mar 21, 2016

We've never had more tools, more information, and more experienced managers guiding out innovation efforts than we do today. So why are companies still so bad at innovation? Maybe it's because they've been focusing on the wrong things... You shouldn't be focusing on customers. You should be focusing on what they're trying to accomplish. A preview of the new book Competing Against Luck: the Story of Innovation and Customer Choice by Harvard Business School Clayton Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David S. Duncan


Competing Against Luck

Karen Dillon
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Every company wants to be a disruptor

Everyone wants to be a successful disruptor, right? That's been a generic symbol of ambition -- find a chink in the armor of the giant and attack. But wanting to do that -- and succeeding at that -- are two very different things.
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how do you know

 what people want?
The question that the theory of Disruptive Innovation, created by HBS professor Clayton Christensen, doesn't answer is HOW to grow. How do you know that creating something that people will really want to buy?
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people have 'jobs'

  • The progress someone in seeking in particular circumstances
  • Functional, social and emotional dimensions
We believe consumers don't just buy products (or services). They 'hire' them -- because they have something they're struggling to accomplish and they believe the product will help them achieve that. We call that struggle a 'job to be done'. And it has very specific meaning in our theory.

What you're looking for

  • Workarounds
  • Nonconsumption
  • Unusual Uses
  • Look in the mirror
  • Negative Jobs
So how do you find unmet jobs to be done that represent ripe opportunities for innovation? Here's one place to start... you're looking for struggles to accomplish something. In your own life and the lives of consumers.
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So what changes?

Once you see 'jobs' and not simply products to create, everything changes. What 'success' looks like -- and who you are competing with.

Who's the competition?

Sony Playstation
Take, for example, Sony Playstation. If we asked who it was competing with, you'd probably say Xbox, right? Well... that depends on what job consumers are hiring it to do. How about these competitors...

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A glass of wine?

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A pint of Ben & Jerry's?
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They compete

To Help me relax after work!
They're all competing with Playstation to be hired for the job of ''Help me relax after a stressful day at work?'' If you ask Netflix CEO Reed Hastings who his primary competition is, he'll say ''everything you do to relax." Including, he says, opening a bottle of wine -- a really tough competitor.
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social and emotional dimensions

Beyond function
It's critical to understand that 'jobs' are not just functional. They have powerful social and emotional dimensions, too...
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How do you feel?

Take, for example, this typical doctor's office. Everything the doctor needs to examine you is there. It's totally functional. But how does this room make the patient feel? Could doctors be solving your job as a patient better than this room???

make progress

Help me
Key to understanding how to solve jobs is realizing that people are trying to make progress. That's what success looks like: help me make progress when I'm struggling with something.
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COMpetitive advantage

and premium prices
If you really understand a customer's job to be done and solve it perfectly, you have built competitive advantage and the ability to charge premium prices.

What JOBS are you Hired to do?

There's a lot more to say (read our book Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice), but you can start by simply asking yourself: what jobs have you been hired to do? If you don't know the answer to that question, you're probably not fully in the game.
Photo by JanneM

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Karen Dillon

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