Competing Against Time | George Stalk Jr.

Summary of: Competing Against Time: How Time-Based Competition is Reshaping Global Mar
By: George Stalk Jr.


Welcome to the fascinating world of ‘Competing Against Time: How Time-Based Competition is Reshaping Global Mar’ by George Stalk Jr. This book takes you on a journey to understand the importance of focusing on the ‘jobs’ that customers want to accomplish with your products and the connection to successful innovations. As you venture through this summary, you’ll come across the Theory of Jobs to Be Done, interesting anecdotes of successful companies like Sony and Airbnb, and the art of uncovering the underlying reasons for customer choices. Prepare yourself to gain a deeper understanding of consumer behavior, the significance of workarounds and unusual uses of products, and how Jobs Theory can guide decision making across your organization.

“The Theory of Jobs to Be Done”

The Theory of Jobs to Be Done claims that people don’t just buy products, they “hire” them to achieve a specific objective. Therefore, unless a product helps the consumer progress towards their goal, tinkering with its features won’t lead to success. Discovering what jobs customers are trying to get done demands a narrative description of their specific progress-seeking objectives. Through anecdotal evidence, the practicality of Jobs Theory has been proven. While data can tell you how many, they don’t explain why. Sony’s founder, Akio Morita, trusted his intuition over market research, observing how people live and accepting their beliefs. It led to the success of over 330 million units of Sony’s Walkman. Jobs Theory changes how processes are optimized and measured for success. As a product marketer, studying consumers’ jobs reveals insights into their purchasing decisions.

Jobs Theory and Successful Product Design

Product success is more than just offering the right product at the right time. Understanding the targeted job at an optimal level of abstraction can lead to successful product design. Jobs Theory, as explained in the book, defines a job as the progress a person tries to make in particular circumstances and argues that customers don’t buy products or services but products that they perceive to be the best solution to accomplish a specific job. This involves understanding the full dimensions of a job, including functional, social, and emotional dimensions, as well as the buyer’s struggle to make progress, situational context, obstacles impeding progress, and the definition of “quality” in a good solution.

Based on a Jobs Theory perspective, Airbnb succeeded by offering short-term rentals that allowed users to travel when they otherwise would not have or stay in a friend’s uncomfortable couch. Outlining a Job to Be Done takes nouns and verbs and not adjectives and adverbs alone. Milkshake purchases, for example, represent a larger job than just flavor or container size preference. Buying milkshake to avoid getting hungry during a morning meeting and to make driving more enjoyable is the job. When done best, people will employ or “hire” the milkshake. Companies must understand targeted jobs and design optimal product solutions that meet customer preferences to succeed in the market.

The Key to Successful Product Innovation

Understanding the specific job customers want done is crucial for creating a successful product. This means considering the social and emotional aspects of the job and delivering experiences that meet customer expectations, making it hard for competitors to replicate. Jobs Theory practitioners aim to perfectly satisfy a customer’s job rather than just creating a new product. Competitive advantage comes not just from understanding customers’ jobs but also from creating experiences that fulfill their needs. Companies that focus on customers’ desired job can gain valuable insights and should avoid in-house solutions that do not meet their customers’ progress.

Jobs Theory for Successful Innovation

Companies should focus on the job the customers are hiring a product to do, instead of relying on internal research about products and customers. The case of Unilever is an example of how big companies veer off course in nailing the job for their customers and focus instead on nailing the job for themselves. Unilever’s leading margarine producer status might have been different today if they identified the jobs customers want margarine to accomplish. The book argues that good luck isn’t all it takes to create successful innovation. Rather, innovation should be based on an understanding of the causal mechanisms of human behavior, which the Jobs Theory enables.

The Power of Jobs Theory

Corporate mission statements often lack specificity in guiding daily decision-making. However, Jobs Theory provides a clear job description that can effectively guide a company’s operations. Jobs Theory practitioners can identify poorly executed jobs, making use of nonconsumption, work-arounds and monitoring product usage to identify opportunities for innovation. Church & Dwight’s Arm & Hammer baking soda brand is an example of a product with untapped potential. Consumer behavior propelled the brand into a variety of new markets, generating millions in additional revenue. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) took advantage of nonconsumption of online degree programs to offer educational opportunities to working adults, resulting in the school’s fast growth and multi-million dollar annual revenue. With the focus of Jobs Theory centered on helping customers do their jobs, organizations have the ability to identify job-related customer needs and successfully meet those needs.

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