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The true innovation lies in solution liberation: A change in perspective to create customer pull


Wichtigkeit des Innovationsmanagement

Jobs to be done (JTBD) helps in the solution-liberated view of the user and their goals they want to achieve.


Still, the emphasis remains on the importance of developing innovative solutions for the problems of tomorrow's customers. Companies invest vast resources to develop products and services that should meet the assumed needs of their target audience. But what happens if this approach is wrong? What if the real innovation lies in forgetting technologies and solutions and instead focusing solution-liberated on the user? This article describes a shift in perspective that helps companies to depart from their own view of the company with its products and technologies, to create customer pull, and to discover real innovations.


The importance of the jobs to be done theory

To create customer pull, it is crucial to understand the Jobs to be Done (JTBD) of the users and the 4 forces working for or against a switch. JTBD is about shifting perspective from the "Supply-Side" to the "Demand-Side" in innovation and understanding solution-liberatedly what goals customers want to achieve and what hinders or empowers them.

In a technology-driven world, there is still the misconception that bringing the best solution (and technology) to the market automatically triggers demand. The main reason for innovation failures (Building solutions nobody wants) clearly refutes this thinking.

JTBD is a perspective as well as a set of tools aimed at focusing on users in their problem space to identify their true goals, needs, and motivations. It is about not seeing the world of customers through one's own product/solution lens in the sales process (Buying-Journey, User-Journey, etc.) but from the user's perspective in their problem-solving process. Those who already think about their own products and solutions or have already developed them have lost the user and will engage in a pointless marketing and sales effort.


In the DIY retail sector, we have realized that customers are not just looking for colors but also for ways to see and design their beloved home virtually in advance. Therefore, we offer an augmented reality app that allows customers to see different colors on their walls before deciding.

In this user research, the focus is purely on the goals that users want to achieve and what tasks or problems they need to overcome. The main job is even formulated to be technology-neutral, was valid decades ago, and will also be relevant in the future, regardless of which technologies may come.


This helps companies to identify the actually important tasks that their customers want to accomplish. This solution-liberated approach also allows companies to understand the true needs of their customers on a deeper level (functional, social, and emotional aspects) and only then to develop innovations that address these previously unmet and important needs.


From this perspective, customers do not simply buy a technology in the form of a product with features; they actively "pull" it into their lives (they hire it) to achieve certain goals or tasks that have been poorly or not achieved before. If a product does not meet the requirements or is no longer needed, customers "fire" it and look for an alternative that is better suited.


Customers don't simply buy products - They hire them

Clayton Christensen


Scientists like Clayton Christensen have emphasized the importance of Jobs to be Done in innovation research. In his work "The Innovator's Solution," Christensen emphasizes that successful innovations are not only based on technological breakthroughs but on a deep understanding of the jobs that customers want to get done (1). He also noted that disruptive innovations usually only succeeded with a new composition of existing (inferior) technologies. This is due to the disruptive power of the business models behind them and not the technology.

Theodore Levitt, a renowned marketing expert, also emphasized the importance of Jobs to be Done in his work back in 1960. In his article "Marketing Myopia," Levitt argued that companies should not focus on products but on the needs and desires of their customers (2).


Accompanying the customer on their journey

To create this customer pull, companies must understand the entire user journey. This means recognizing the different phases (passive/active information gathering, evaluating, deciding, etc.) and thus identifying the moments when customers are confronted with problems, as well as the alternative solutions they currently use to fulfill these jobs. By understanding this journey, companies can develop innovations that specifically address the actual un(fulfilled) needs of their customers and minimize the hurdles of a switch.


We are all creatures of habit, and we will keep doing what we have been doing unless we have that struggling moment

Bob Moesta


In his book "Mapping Experiences," Jim Kalbach emphasizes the importance of understanding and visualizing the entire customer journey (3). By identifying the interactions and touchpoints along the customer journey, companies can improve the customer experience and promote customer loyalty.


Understanding emotions and motivations

It is important not only to understand the practical aspects of functional Jobs to be Done but also the emotional and motivational factors that influence customer behavior. By understanding the fears, hopes, and desires of their customers, companies can develop innovations that provide real value.


In his work "What Customers Want," Tony Ulwick emphasizes the importance of understanding the deeper motivations and goals of customers (4). By identifying the "jobs" that customers really want to get done, companies can develop products and services that effectively address these needs.


The power of solution liberation

Often, companies are so focused on developing and selling their own solutions that they lose sight of their customers' actual needs. However, true innovation lies in forgetting the solution and instead focusing on the needs and desires of customers. By pursuing a solution-liberated approach, companies can create customer pull and discover real innovations that make a difference from competitors.


In his book "What Customers Want," Tony Ulwick emphasizes the importance of focusing on customer needs rather than solutions. By taking a process-oriented approach to innovation and systematically gathering customer feedback, companies can develop products and services that solve real problems and effectively address customer needs.


Practical applications in corporate innovation

How can companies integrate this perspective into their strategic planning? On the one hand, they should encourage their innovation departments to engage in open, solution-liberated dialogues with customers to better understand their needs and challenges. Often, the challenge lies in companies arranging customer meetings with the expectation of presenting a demonstration of their solution. In such cases, customers tend to evaluate the solution based on familiar criteria rather than providing deeper insights into their actual needs.


However, when companies view customers as experts on their Jobs to be Done, they can learn more about their requirements and thus address relevant pain points in the ideation of solutions. It's about not just presenting solutions but using dialogue to gain a deeper understanding of customers' challenges and needs. This allows companies to develop tailored solutions that solve their customers' actual problems.


On the other hand, companies should use agile methods such as Design Thinking and Lean Startup approaches to quickly and cost-effectively develop prototypes and obtain customer feedback. These methods enable companies to systematically reduce innovation risk, flexibly respond to their customers' responses, and conduct iterative development cycles to ensure that their solutions meet customers' expectations and requirements.


Conclusion

A shift in perspective away from a fixation on solutions towards a solution-liberated approach can help companies create customer pull and discover real innovations. By understanding the Jobs to be Done of their customers, accompanying their journey, and considering their emotional and motivational factors, companies can develop products and services that provide real value and stand out from the competition.


Yetvart Artinyan

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Sources:

1. Christensen, Clayton M. "The Innovator's Solution: Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth." Harvard Business Review Press, 2003.

2. Levitt, Theodore "Marketing Myopia." Harvard Business Review, 1960.

3. Kalbach, Jim "Mapping Experiences: A Complete Guide to Creating Value through Journeys, Blueprints, and Diagrams." O'Reilly Media, 2016.

4. Ulwick, Tony "What Customers Want: Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services." McGraw-Hill Education, 2005.

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