From startups to Fortune 500 companies, organizations are constantly thinking about how to come up with the next big idea — the true game changer. But just as in baseball, companies that swing for the fences tend to strike out a lot. While innovation is certainly about taking smart risks and experimenting with the unknown, coming up with that breakthrough product doesn’t necessarily mean stretching the organization far beyond the core. Great ideas — wildly successful, game-changing ideas — can come from familiar product categories, and they can actually look quite simple once you’ve come up with them. In fact, for the better part of the past century, Sargento has repeatedly rocked the food and beverage world by finding new ways to sell cheese. Let’s look at how Sargento has turned under-satisfied jobs to be done into decades of success.
In October, Twitter announced that it would be shutting down Vine — its app for creating six-second looping videos. Twitter also revealed that it would be laying off roughly 9% of its workforce. This all came on the heels of Twitter’s failed attempts to be acquired despite reported interest from companies such as Disney, Google, and Salesforce. Twitter has now announced that as of January 17th, the Vine app will be rebranded as Vine Camera. In its new incarnation, the app will be a simple tool for creating looping videos that can be posted on Twitter.
This article was written by Dave Farber.
It was more than 50 years ago that Peter Drucker wrote, “Nobody pays for a product. What is paid for is satisfaction.”
Yet, in the years since, companies across industries have continued to market their “products,” only to be surprised by the inconsistency with which they can predict what customers actually will buy and be happy with.
If companies are to succeed at selling their offerings, they’re going to need to stop thinking about what they’re trying to sell, and start thinking about what customers are trying to buy.
This article was written by Steve Wunker and Dave Farber.
The team at Mass Innovation Nights — a group that helps startups get visibility and funding — recently brought together a group of EdTech companies. Despite the number of organizations showcasing innovative technologies, all had one thing in common — they focused on lasting challenges that have plagued students and educators for years. And there’s a good reason for that. Across industries, the companies that have the most success aren’t those that pack their products with the coolest new technologies or offer the greatest number of features. They’re the ones that help customers satisfy the important jobs that they’re trying to get done in their lives. And those jobs tend to be pretty stable from year to year. It’s the technology that changes, offering ways to get jobs done more easily or with fewer pain points. At this recent event, three companies seemed particularly attuned to the jobs that education stakeholders are struggling to get done with today’s offerings.
This post was written by David Farber.
When entrepreneurs introduce new products to the market, their passion and conviction often leads them to assume that every potential customer will see the immediate need and value, and will quickly adopt the solution. They are devastated when their business growth never starts or stalls, and they have no idea how to get it moving again.
In his latest Huffington Post article, Marty Zwilling summarizes ten obstacles to product adoption, adapted from our latest book Jobs to be Done. These obstacles include:
Our Managing Director was recently interviewed for a Heleo Conversation with Sunand Menon, the president and founder of innovation execution firm New Media Insight LLC. They discussed the importance of broadening your perspective and thinking outside the box in order to accomplish both professional and personal goals.
A Donald Trump presidency throws many business plans into disarray. Consider the example of a medical technology company where I spent the day after the election. Our medtech client has spent years adapting both its products and commercial model to the Affordable Care Act and now…who knows? Trump spelled out very little about his healthcare plans, as with policies affecting many industries, and it’s impossible to say what will really happen. But dramatic change is certainly possible.
What is this company to do? Should it ratchet back long-term spending and just try to milk profits in the short-term? Should it go full-steam ahead? In our latest article for Forbes, we discuss two principles for dealing with any type of uncertainty.
This post was written by Steve Wunker.
The shock of Donald Trump’s upset win is settling in, and we look forward to innumerable post-mortems on how forecast models went astray. The assumption is that next time we’ll have more precise predictions. But what if that faith is misplaced? After all, missing forecasts happens all the time in the private sector, whether companies end up with a runaway hit or a total bust. What can we learn from Trump’s stunner that won’t just tweak our prediction models, but cause us to fundamentally re-think them?
This article was written by Steve Wunker.
With more and more companies adding “jobs to be done” to their innovation tool kits, the amount of misinformation about Jobs Theory has grown enormously. Clayton Christensen – the Harvard Business School professor credited with popularizing the theory – has repeatedly spoken of the need to get the theory right and to be careful in how we use the terms associated with the theory. If we’re not clear about the boundaries of the theory and how we use words such as “jobs,” he warns, the theory can lose its predictive power and its utility. In the spirit of keeping the theory well-defined, we’ve decided to bust three common myths we’ve heard about “jobs to be done”:
Read more in our latest article for Forbes.
This article was written by Steve Wunker and Dave Farber.
This past August, Mass Innovation Nights launched its 11thMIN FOODIE event in Somerville, Massachusetts. Bringing together ten food and food tech startups, the night was an opportunity for these new business to showcase their ideas and get the word out about their companies.
It was impressive to see quite a few startups address tasks that consumers would like to prioritize in the everyday but struggle to get done. One company, for example, launched an app to help individuals find and buy local. Another made it easier for people to eat all-natural foods. A third focused on enabling people to reward themselves without feeling guilty. Having worked with a number of leading food companies, we have seen that customers are often willing to pay a premium for these exact types of services. This suggests that these young startups may be on to something.
Looking at the winner and the runners-up in the event, three big lessons stand out on how companies can differentiate themselves in crowded markets:
It has been reported by The Wall Street Journal that Snap, Inc. — previously Snapchat — is preparing for an IPO early next year that would value the company at around $25 billion. This comes on the heels of Snapchat’s recent announcement that it’s expanding into the hardware realm with the coming launch of its new Snapchat Spectacles. All this from a company that makes yet another app in the crowded photo and messaging spaces. All this from a company that puts out a seemingly inferior product that offers far less functionality than its chief rivals in the social media realm. Yet, as we’ll explore in a moment, it’s precisely that “inferiority” that gives Snapchat its edge.
As Google Glass fades to distant memory, yet another alliterative wearable is trying to turn our faces into cameras. Why? Even Google — a company that we trust to develop self-driving cars and deliver burritos by drones — was heavily maligned for daring to add a camera to our glasses. The criticism was unrelenting: the glasses were expensive, they looked ridiculous, and they could be used to covertly take video of others without their knowledge. In some ways, Snapchat’s Spectacles address those concerns. They’ll retail for roughly one-tenth of what early adopters had to shell out for Google Glass, and the Spectacles camera has lights to indicate when it’s filming. How fashionable they are remains to be seen.
How is innovation consulting different from other kinds of consulting? In this guest post written for a-connect, our Managing Director Steve Wunker points out what makes innovation consulting distinctive, how the field has changed in the past decade, and what major trends will impact it in the future.
If you ask them, customers have a lot of needs—they want bigger, faster, more efficient, more variety. Most companies chase after this laundry list of to-do’s, churning out solutions that are increasingly elaborate and feature-laden. Sometimes they end up with a bullet train; other times, you get green-colored ketchup.
On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve seen companies direct their innovation efforts towards finding radical ways to do less—which correspondingly allows them charge less to their customers. These businesses are veterans at making tough trade-offs; they relish in ruthlessly and imaginatively funneling down to the bare bones of what their customers need. There are many ways to go about this cost-cutting, but the end result is almost always a transformative approach to the industry. We call this Costovation.
An example of this down-market innovation is Omenahotelli, a Scandinavian chain of budget hotels where just two things are guaranteed: a cheap rate and a central location. Anything else—like a lobby, receptionist, or even housekeeping services—is not part of the deal. Guests receive passcodes to unlock the front door and then self-service their way through their stay in highly-standardized rooms. Omenahotelli runs on a simple concept—price and location above all—and is as innovative as it is lean. It’s perfectly suited for budget travelers exploring an expensive part of the world.
Here are two key lessons about innovation that we’ve gathered from businesses that excel at Costovation.
Lesson #1: Innovation doesn’t have to be about more. We live in a world of ever-expanding phone display screens and 1000 flavor soda fountains, but catering to our ever-evolving whims comes at the expense of simplicity in the back-end supply chain. In contrast, one technique for Costovation involves rallying around the single most pressing customer need. It’s the opportunity to do just one or a handful of things very well.
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