Competing Against Luck | Clayton M. Christensen

Summary of: Competing Against Luck
By: Clayton M. Christensen


Dive into the world of ‘Competing Against Luck’ by Clayton M. Christensen, a book that presents the groundbreaking Theory of Jobs to Be Done. This fascinating concept argues that people don’t just buy products; rather, they ‘hire’ them to make progress in their personal goals. The book emphasizes the importance of understanding customers’ needs and desires in order to create successful solutions. Throughout various real-life examples, you will uncover the importance of observing consumer behavior and identifying their unmet jobs as a way to propel your company forward. Get ready to learn how to develop innovative strategies and achieve competitive advantage by applying the principles of Jobs Theory to your business.

The Theory of Jobs to Be Done

The Theory of Jobs to Be Done suggests that people don’t just buy products, they “hire” them to help them achieve personal progress towards a specific objective. Successful innovation is only possible if a product helps consumers make progress. Identifying a Job to Be Done involves understanding the specific type of progress that customers seek. By analyzing what customers “hire” and “fire,” companies can gain insight into the functional, emotional, and social dimensions of their customers’ desires for progress. Jobs Theory changes the way companies optimize their processes and measure success, emphasizing the importance of observing real people in their moments of struggle to gain deep insights into their purchasing decisions. Quantitative data fall short in revealing the stories of real people in real companies. The narrative construction of Jobs Theory helps product marketers better understand the processes that drive their consumers’ choices to buy and sell.

Understanding the Jobs Theory

Companies can achieve success by identifying a buyer’s job to be done and understanding its complete dimensions to provide better solutions.

The Jobs Theory presents the idea that a buyer integrates a product into their daily routine to accomplish a specific job rather than merely buying a product for its features or brand. The complete understanding of a job entails identifying the buyer’s struggle to progress, situational context, obstacles, and buyer’s definition of quality in a good solution. Many companies have seen success by identifying their customer’s job to be done. For example, Airbnb’s job to be done was to offer customers an alternative to staying with family or friends, and thus, they listed homes and rooms available for short-term rental.

However, a loose definition of a job cannot effectively apply Jobs Theory. A job should be defined by nouns and verbs rather than adjectives and adverbs. For instance, buying a milkshake during a morning commute can be seen as hiring it to do a job; precluding hunger during a morning meeting and making the drive to work more manageable. Identifying larger jobs such as these can lead to better solutions for customers.

In conclusion, understanding Jobs Theory requires more than just knowing who the customer is, what they do and what they need. Instead, companies must identify a targeted job, outline it using nouns and verbs, and understand its complete dimensions. Providing customers with better solutions for the job they want to be done ultimately leads to more successful businesses.

Customer Jobs Drive Innovation

Successful product development requires identifying and addressing all aspects of the customer’s job, including emotional and social facets. The key to achieving a competitive edge is to create customer experiences that fulfill expectations and make imitating the product difficult for competitors. To accomplish this, companies should not only understand the customer’s job but also focus on delivering the best possible experience. By understanding consumer behavior and seeking fresh insights, businesses can create innovative solutions that address customers’ specific needs.

Understanding Customer Needs

The success of a product depends on how well it satisfies the needs of its consumers. In the book, “Competing Against Luck,” Clayton Christensen suggests that companies rely too much on internal research and fail to understand the jobs their customers want the product to achieve. For instance, Unilever’s focus on competing with butter failed to target the real jobs customers hired margarine to do, resulting in declining sales. Companies need to identify the “causal mechanisms of human behavior” and change their approach to innovation. Christensen emphasizes that data has the same agenda as its creator and that luck is not the deciding factor in creating successful innovations. By understanding the jobs customers need a product to do, companies can create products that better satisfy their needs.

Discovering Opportunities with Jobs Theory

Corporate mission statements are often too vague to guide employees’ decision making, but Jobs Theory provides a clear job specification to guide daily decision making companywide. By identifying jobs that are being done poorly or not done at all, Jobs Theory practitioners can see opportunities in nonconsumption and work-arounds for flawed solutions. Work-arounds can provide clues that an opportunity to innovate is at hand. Unusual uses of a product are another harbinger of opportunity. Companies should be open to finding anomalies and using them as an opportunity to strengthen their theory. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) found that it was competing not just against other colleges but also against nonconsumption. They then developed online degree programs and marketed them to adult students trying to make academic progress while working and raising families. SNHU’s sharp focus on helping busy adults made them into a fast-growing school with $535 million in annual revenue.

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