We know that people buy products and services to get a “job” done. When looking at innovation through a jobs-to-be-done lens, it is clear that the goal of innovation is to create products and services that help customers get their jobs done better. So why do nearly 90 percent of all products that companies invest in fail to achieve this objective?
As the pioneers of jobs-to-be-done thinking, we have learned that much of this failure can be explained by looking at the problem from a different perspective. As we worked with over a third of the Fortune 100 companies over the past two decades, we analyzed the innovation problem through a jobs-to-be-done lens. Through this lens, we have concluded that these are the top ten reasons products fail:
1. The chosen market doesn’t hold significant revenue potential.
It is impossible to have a billion-dollar idea in a million-dollar market. Targeting a market that has few job executors, or customers that don’t struggle to get the job done, may never result in revenue growth.
2. The market is defined too broadly.
Focusing on helping customers get loosely defined, lofty, or emotional jobs done makes innovation more challenging and success less likely.
3. The market is defined too narrowly.
Focusing on helping customers get one or two steps of a job done, when the actual job is much larger and complex, will likely lead to underwhelmed customers.
4. A product improvement strategy is followed when what is needed is a new product.
When the only unmet needs in the market cannot be addressed by adding new features to the existing product, a new product is needed to get the job done better. Improving the existing product is a waste of time.
5. The product doesn’t get the job done any better.
The product may address the same needs as competing solutions, but fail to address additional unmet needs and add additional value.
6. The product isn’t targeted at the most underserved segment.
Every market has a segment of customers that struggle more than others to get the job done. Not knowing who these early adopters are makes success less likely.
7. The product doesn’t address all consumption chain jobs.
Products won’t succeed if customers find it difficult to acquire, set up, use, maintain, or upgrade them. The product is less attractive if it fails to address all the consumption chain jobs.
8. The product doesn’t address the entire job.
It may help customers get parts of the job done well, but not the whole job, leaving customers to cobble together the rest of the solution.
9. The product gets the job done better, but not enough to matter.
People may not buy or switch to a product that gets the job done 1 or 2 percent better. Significant improvement (20 percent or more) is usually required to gain a market leadership position.
10. The product isn’t priced to win profit share.
A great product may be underpriced if it is unclear just how much value the product is delivering customers. This leaves revenue and profit on the table.
Products fail along these fronts because the innovation processes that companies use to create them do not mitigate these risks. This is why our innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation is different and works. It was built from the ground up to mitigate these and other risks. Doing so has given us a success rate that is five times the industry average. Seeing innovation through a jobs-to-be-done lens offers insight that explains why products succeed and fail.
Tony Ulwick is the pioneer of jobs-to-be-done thinking and the inventor of Outcome-Driven Innovation. He is the author of the best-selling book What Customers Want and has published articles in the Harvard Business Review. He holds 5 patents on his innovation process. As the founder of Strategyn, he has generated billions of dollars in revenue growth for dozens of global firms.