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Making innovations that people use: dos and dont’s – a conversation with a friend innovator

Several months ago, I sat down with a friend innovator, and we discussed how to succeed at innovation.

I/ Dont’s: don’t develop corporate centric innovations


Many large companies have such complex corporate cultures, that they unknowingly develop products that please the corporate culture at the expense of bringing value to their clients. So what’s critical when starting to innovate is to understand:

  • What’s the client experience?
  • What are the main client usages?
  • How can these be improved?



II/ Dont’s: don’t overestimate the value of technological novelty

When companies have a better understanding of what the clients usages are then, they can look for relevant technologies. In other words, technological innovation should not exist on its own. Technologies are meant to improve the client’s experience. But novel technologies should not be promoted as such. Technological novelty doesn’t bring value to customers as such. Technological novelty brings value to customers if and only if it enhances the customer experience.



III/ DOs: use the “Jobs-to-be-done” to develop innovations that people buy


My ideas on how to develop innovations that people buy:

Customers have jobs that they need to get done in their daily lives. These jobs may include:

  • getting from home to work in the morning
  • getting from work to home at night
  • sending information from one place to another, and so on


These jobs remain unchanged, whatever change may have occurred in the past. For example:

  • Modern managers have to get to work in the morning just like Romans had to get to work 2000 years ago
  • Modern day managers have to transmit information from one point to another, just like ancient Greece had to transport information from one point to another


So, despite profound technological, political, social, changes, folks still have the same jobs to get done. In order to accomplish these jobs, we choose one product over another. In other words, we “hire” products based on what jobs we have to get done.


For example:

  • A friend informed me that to get from home to work, on the day of our meeting, he chose Autolib, an innovative car rental service offered in Paris
  • As for me, in order to meet with my friend, I chose the Metro


My friend and I chose different products probably because we were trying to achieve different things.

I chose a Metro because I wanted to read while I was being transported to my friend’s office. To achieve this job, the best product is the Metro. Obviously driving a car or riding a bike wouldn’t help me do the job because my hands would be taken. So it seems like the only product that offered the possibility of transportation while reading is the Metro.


My friend chose the innovative car rental system, because:

  • he likes its practicality: he knows that he will have a parking spot when he gets to his office
  • it’s a comfortable way to get to work
  • he’s got his own privacy while he’s being transported


So, we chose different products because we were trying to achieve different things.

This theory outlays the decision-making process that consumers go through when they choose one product over another. It provides a cause and effect explanation for why somebody would choose one product over another.


So, my point is that an innovation will work if and only if it helps to optimize the jobs that consumers are already trying to get done in their daily lives. If a product does a good job at optimizing what consumers are trying to do, then consumers will choose a product over competition and purchase it. If, however, the product does not do a good job at helping consumers do with they are trying to get done, then, consumers will not choose the product, regardless of whether or not the product in question is a technological novelty.


Further readings on making innovations that people use:

  • For a presentation of the jobs-to-be done theory, please refer to Tony Ulwick’s blog, here
  • For an example of how the jobs-to-be done theory can be used to assess whether an innovation is successful or not, please refer here and here
  • For a presentation as to how to develop innovations that people buy, please refer here


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