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2% of those initiatives delivered 90% of the cumulative value. One of the key things that marked out the high-performing initiatives was that they shifted the means of customer engagement and the business model. They went beyond simple product improvements, seeing a job to be done that required a new business model, often fundamentally changing their industry. For example, businesses like Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club have seized the opportunities created by digital technologies to build a new model for selling razors, going direct to consumers on a subscription basis. Their model is viable thanks to digital technology, which has helped them disrupt a market long dominated by major incumbents.

Take the first step

An important first step in customer-centric innovation may sound unorthodox if you’re used to making decisions based on spreadsheets and charts. It is to build customer empathy by talking to the actual people who might buy your product. Observational research can unearth jobs to be done that are simply not visible in consumer data, especially when you

are innovating to meet new jobs to be done and there is no data to draw on. Take South Korea, one of the many countries today with an ageing population, where over65s now account for 14% of the total population and rising. Human longevity is creating lots of new jobs to be done and one that I observed is the desire of senior citizens to record their life experiences in a book. They might only print 50 copies, but in a culture that strongly respects older people, an interviewing and writing service could be hugely popular. While we decided not to pursue the opportunity, it could yet be a success for a small entrepreneurial firm. You cannot find opportunities like that in spreadsheets or graphs. It needs real engagement with customers. As the first step in developing your next product, find a real question or unknown that’s important to your work, frame some questions using the ‘jobs to be done’ theory – and get out of the office for some real conversations.

As the first step in developing your next product, get out of the office for some real conversations

— Hari Nair is a fellow of the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University, senior advisor at New Markets Advisors, and an instructor on Duke Corporate Education’s Building Strategic Agility course. See digital.dukece.com Q4 2019 Dialogue

Profile for LID Business Media

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...