My first blog after a long summer break, I hope all of you had a safe and sound summer as well. I did catch up on a lot well-deserved reading but somehow my reading list from amazon has not gotten shorter. I bet you if Amazon did a customer lifetime value analysis on me, I think Amazon has probably made quite a pretty penny off of me just on books.
When I wrote the “Jobs to be done” write up on my blog, I did get a few feedback from folks who read it. Some of them mentioned that the “Jobs to be done” notion sounds great but it is mostly theoretical (Cleary some folks have not read Clay Christensen’s Innovator’s solution), because when have to jobs you want get done in real life there are constraints. To which I thought a little bit and realized, and a little inspiration from the book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by C.K. Prahalad, that innovation is not limited by constraints but actually happens because of it. With realization I went through the process of retracing my steps on activities which forced me to improvise or bootstrap projects in the past, the reason I had to improvise were because constraints along with a few other things such as effort and risk. Considering these limits in mind I did proceed to execute with a series of actions. I know this sounds trivial because this behavior is so ingrained in us that most of us don’t think twice. So this blog is dedicated to those 3 things that me realize I had not done justice to my earlier blog on “Jobs to be done”.
For innovation to happen constraints can come in various forms. These constraints could be the usual suspects like finance/budget, resources, business model at a micro level or these constraints can be imposed at a macro level such as Political, Environmental, Social, or Technological. There is a reason why such decision-making tools exist whether it is the SWOT analysis framework or the PEST analysis framework. These tools allow us to look at the constraint in an objective way and figure out the right course of action. I mean think about if these constraints were not put in place how would we have gotten some of the greatest innovations of our time. These constraints become even more relevant as our economy moves on from a post-industrialized society to knowledge driven society. Just think about the Reinvent the toilet challenge held by the gates foundation with a very simple constraint “it should be useable by 2.5 billion people that do not have access simple, hygienic, and sustainable toilets”.
Beyond the constraint this is usually the top most thing in our mind. I know it because every time I have been given a project my initial request is always more resources and the answer usually is work with what you have. Because of this limitation, I am forced to improvise and work around ways to get my job done. My usual formula is the get the maximum efficiency with the most minimum amount of effort but it does force me to think in ways that I would not thought in an environment that is more comfortable. That is the other thing comfortable surrounding means bad news to me it means you are going to go stale pretty quickly (that is topic for a blog later)
This is the other big one. With everything you do there is an element of risk. The only question you have to ask yourself is what is the threshold you and are team can withstand. I know there are plenty of books and magazines that romanticize the notion of risk taking, which sound a hell of lot cooler than saying that before a so called rock star CEO was about embark on a risky proposition he/she was sweating bullets. Which is why I am a big fan of things like continuous integration, delivery, A/B testing, and data driven analysis. All these paradigms help reducing the cone of uncertainity that we know as risk. But with all these tools that we have to help us make better decision a few complimentary tools help us in making the right decisions and they are “Observing people and what they do, and sometimes just plain listening”. Both these non-technical elements that give you ample insight on what you need to do next to innovate (Yes, engaging LinkedIn groups can be a proxy provided that you actually engage in dialog in those groups)
I would like to add a fourth element to this as well (Yes, I know I said 3 things in the blog title, but you folks have not heard from me throughout the summer, so I feel compelled to share with you a little bit more).
What is the measure of success that people use for the job they want to get done? This dawned on me the other day that in the West, we don’t think about price when we know that a product has a high level of performance and reliability. But if you think about products in the emerging markets, performance is the least of the concerns, their threshold is so low that they want to be able to do basic things at reasonable price. In both these cases you can observe that the metric of success for one constituent is performance whereas for the other constituent it is the price. You can take a performance product and place it a price sensitive market but at best you will skim the market but if you listen to price person you might design a product that could not only work in the emerging markets but also in the rest of world there by creating a new market (this is part is a bonus). The intent of this section to make sure success metric is not forgotten. Too often we get carried away by other things but really do not pay attention to actual metric that will define success for the target constituent. This is something we need to pay attention do and it might just be a statement like “Minimize the time to reinitialize after an emergency to eject thrusters”
Just take a look at what GEis doing on this whole notion of reverse innovation, it really shows that they looking into all 4 things, when it comes to the jobs to be done framework and it’s implementation.
As always I look forward to a very enriching discussion. You can contact me @ kkanakas on twitter with your comments