How can we come up with new product ideas?

I have previously written about Jobs To Be Done but the topic is still fascinating to me because I think this is a key tool to do customer discovery and ultimately drive product strategy. There are also so many overlaps between JTBD, design thinking and the concepts that were covered in Badass book that convinces me there is real value in understanding and pursuing them.

In continuation with my previous research this time I managed to read the latest Clayton Christensen book along with one practical guide intercom published a while back on the topic. To refresh your mind here is what JTBD:

A job basically is another way of defining underlying user’s need without focusing too much on user’s attributes. What I mean by user’s attributes are characteristics that define a user, like gender, age, occupation etc. The core theory of Jobs to be Done stems from the fact that customers pull a product or service into their lives when they are trying to solve a problem regardless of who they are. Problems in our lives always exist and we as customers pull products or services available to us into our lives as a way to satisfy those problem. The first product/services that address the job is not very good however they are competing with nothing (or as Mr. Christensen puts it they are competing with non-consumption) and they are making something happen when it was not possible before so we hire them. Over time because we are looking to make progress in solving our problem when we find a better, faster and cheaper solution we fire the old solution and hire the better solution.

Let me explain these concept with an example: talking to your loved ones when you are far away is a universal problem. This problem fits a description of a job because regardless of people’s age, gender and/or location the need to communicate always exists. I remember when my aunt left Iran in 1985 to get her bachelor’s degree oversees, calling her was so expensive that my grand parents could only afford to talk for 10 minutes a week and those phone calls would cost a fortune at the end of the month. Few years later, when prepaid international phone cards came to market, national telecom company was quickly fired and prepaid phone cards were hired immediately instead. This solution was much more cost effective so now my grand parents could talk hours instead of minutes per week for the same cost. Fast forward to now where with ubiquitous availability of mobile phones and Voice over IP technology we now hire Skype and What’s app to talk however long we want for free.

What is interesting is that JTBD helps us to view solutions for hire holistically by not just focusing on direct competitors in one market but to understand that the solution for hire can come from indirect competition. A few years ago if you asked business folks at telecom giants like Verizon in US or Rogers in Canada about their competitors I bet names like AT&T or Bell (which are other giant telecom) will pop up. They would never considered a rinky-dink company founded in Estonia that provided computer-to-computer calls to be a threat. Skype however was quickly hired by international students who were technology-savvy but poor to call home. They would tolerate bad voice quality and dropped calls as long as the talk to friends and family back home. Within 2 years Skype penetrated the market so fast that was bought for a record $2.5 billion in 2005. Fast forward to now where many of us don’t have a landline anymore let alone making an oversees call from it!!

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