At bugle, we were sorry to hear about Clayton Chistensen’s passing. He was one of the greatest innovation thinkers in the last decades. I’ve recently published a short article in his memory, which was motivated by my gratitude for having been his student. You can find the English version and the Portuguese original at the end of this article.
Professor Christensen’s main theoretic legacy is the concept of disruption innovation, developed after his intense study of the steel and microchip industries, and outlined in his classic book The Innovators Dilemma. But Christensen’s legacy is vaster than the notion of disruptive innovation. Another concept he became famous for is the jobs-to-be-done framework, which is in essence a consumer action theory. It describes the mechanisms that compels a consumer to “hire” a product or service to get a specific job done.
The McDonald’s milkshakes example is a memorable use case that Christensen cited to explain how one single product can belong to multiple “jobs-to-be-done”. Based on interviews and consumer trends analysis, Christensen and his colleagues realised that there were two main buyer personas for that product. During the morning, milkshakes were bought by adults to be drank in their cars while they commuted to work. In the afternoon, milkshake buyers were parents who brought their kids to the store to get them a treat. They concluded the morning milkshake’s job-to-be-done was to decrease the commuters’ boredom and ensure their hunger would be kept at bay until lunch time. The afternoon’s milkshake job-to-be-done was quite different: it made a parent feel better by treating their children after a day of absence. Therefore, McDonald’s created a morning version of their milkshakes which was made to go. The morning milkshake was made thick (so it would last the whole commute) and somewhat frothy (in order to delight the spiritless driver). In their afternoon version, milkshakes were lighter and quicker to drink (kids didn’t really need that much energy) and served in targeted packaging that included fun elements such as cartoon characters. This novel approach was a great success.
Here at bugle, there was also a time in which we tried to get a better sense of the job-to-be-done that drove our corporate clients to hire us. What were the real challenges in their day-to-day operations we could help mitigate? In order to figure that out, we partnered with Rene Bastijans, a consultant specialised in this framework. He then conducted in-depth research about our clients and their inner motivations. His interview process made them return to the “decision making moment” — when they opted for bugle —to figure out what they had in mind when they made such decision.
The result of his analysis was very clear. René talked with bugle clients that are sales managers, finding that they hired us to meet a growing need to train their sales reps as business scaled. He also found that customer success leads hiring bugle wanted to address their struggle to onboard a growing customer base. He also interviewed operations managers struggling with coordination of an increasing number of business partners. And finally, he identified marketing managers looking to set up brand academies as part of their increasing acquisition goals.
In one word: growth.
This research confirmed that bugle is in the growth business. We effectively help our diverse set of clients scale more efficiently and with improved overall results.
Knowing this, we looked to align our product development, marketing and sales efforts as well as customer success operations with this specific job-to-be-done, adjusting our strategy and operations to the main reason why we were being hired. This approach is an ongoing process bringing us clarity and focus.
What about your company? Do you feel you really know the reason why your clients acquire your product or hire your services? What’s the job-to-be-done of your company?
João Ferro Rodrigues
The Innovators Dilemma, by Clayton Chistensen