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Since the early 1990s, Bain has conducted a regular survey of thousands of managers to determine what tools and frameworks they are using to manage their businesses. Despite the constant introduction of new innovation tools and frameworks, the number of tools managers use today is less than half of what we were seeing 20 years ago. …


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I’ve been fortunate to work with some great teams over the years to bring digital solutions to market. From healthcare to education to financial services, I’ve worked with teams to conceptualize and commercialize successful apps, including one of the most popular fitness apps currently on the market. …


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In late August Uber and Lyft nearly halted their operations in California in response to a court’s order to reclassify their drivers as employees rather than independent contractors. But this public showdown between ride-sharing companies and lawmakers is part of a much larger issue. Uber and Lyft drivers are currently treated as gig workers — those who work for themselves rather than as employees of a business. While estimates vary, there could be nearly 70 million gig workers in the U.S., which would be more than one third of the U.S. workforce.

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Part of the reason that we struggle to estimate how many gig workers are out there is that beyond determining whether someone is an employee or an independent worker, there are variations in what independent work can look like. Gig work can be part-time or full-time. Gig workers can set up their own businesses or gain work via platforms like Uber. Gig workers may rely entirely on their independent work or they may also be traditional employees at the same time. They could pay their taxes in entirely different ways, and some likely avoid paying taxes altogether. Things pretty quickly get complicated. …


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Innovation is all about delivering value to organizations by finding new ways to help consumers achieve the jobs they are trying to get done. One of the nice things about taking a Jobs to be Done view of innovation is that jobs tend to be stable over time. The jobs that consumers are trying to get done today are the same jobs that consumers will be trying to get done five years from now.

Despite the stability in what consumers are trying to achieve, plenty of things do change. Competitors may be putting out new offerings that are helping consumers accomplish their goals. So while consumers may still care about building their retirement nest egg, for example, the range of low-cost funds and robo-advisors that have come onto the market have helped consumers make progress toward getting that job done. The more progress consumers make toward one job, the lower that job ranks in terms of opportunity for organizations. …


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Five years ago I wrote a piece for Forbes highlighting different strategies that big companies were using to build a culture of innovation. While that article proved to be quite popular, much has changed since then. Even before COVID-19 forced many to work remotely, workforces were already becoming highly decentralized. Organizations were touting work-from-home opportunities as a new benefit, and larger companies were moving away from the single-headquarters tradition to ensure that they could access broad pools of talent around the world.

These trends have only intensified in recent months, and many organizations are expected to make at least some of their work-from-home options permanent. As employees continue working from home, organic opportunities for collaboration will be lost. The huddle rooms for quickly sharing ideas, the stocks of materials for designing prototypes, and the whiteboards for articulating and elaborating on preliminary concepts are all inaccessible to those who aren’t in the office. …


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A big part of my job is helping companies build or improve their innovation capabilities. Sometimes this means starting with a clean slate; I get to build an incubator or an innovation lab from the ground up. Other times it means coming in later in the process to help an organization improve the outcomes of its innovation efforts or to tie together disparate innovation activities that are happening within the company.

Regardless of where in the process teams are or what form the innovation effort takes, I’ve found that building an exceptional innovation function is a process. It’s not an activity with a defined start and end. As with any learning opportunity, it’s hard to absorb everything at once. Teams that try to build processes while simultaneously launching digital idea platforms while also leading culture transformations tend to get overwhelmed. It feels as though there are constant fires to put out, and outputs are less than what was envisioned. Teams end up focusing on things in the wrong order because they feel like they can gain traction — say by trying to define metrics before there’s a clear mandate — or they cede autonomy in favor of advancing others’ pet projects that will at least be able to get something off the ground. …


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With much of the world recently locking down in one form or another, individuals have been spending far more time in their homes. Some businesses have basically had to build a digital presence overnight, while others have simply seen their digital channels rise in importance. Because customers are having so many more digital interactions, even businesses with established online operations are starting to realize that customers are raising the bar in terms of their expectations for a good customer experience (CX).

Even before the impacts of COVID-19, having just a decent customer experience was no longer good enough. According to a recent benchmarking study, companies that prioritized CX improvement were three times more likely to have significantly exceeded their top 2019 business goals than their peers. A 2019 Gartner report found that two thirds of customer loyalty is driven by customer experience, outperforming the impact of brand and price combined. Companies are starting to realize the importance of CX investments. …


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As I talk with clients these days, I often hear them ask a recurring question: how do we know which customer behavior changes will endure and which behaviors will revert to normal in the coming months? …


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A few years ago, I developed a framework for finding, testing, and mitigating risks and uncertainties in periods of volatility. The idea came out of a recent survey of U.S. CEOs, which showed that 86% believed that advances in technology would transform their businesses in the next five years. It also showed that 60% of respondents believed that new market entrants would threaten their growth prospects. Even in calm times, fear of the unknown was top of mind for corporate leaders.

As COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus) disrupts lives, businesses, and societies at large, those uncertainties are even more prevalent. Companies are struggling to understand how their supply chains will be disrupted, how their customers will behave (both now and once a “new normal” is established), and how the competitive landscape will evolve amidst the changes that occur. …


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When I first started helping companies deploy Jobs to be Done within their organizations, people were largely unfamiliar with the concept. Maybe a few people — likely the project sponsors — had read an article about Jobs or seen the famous milkshake video in which the late Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen describes the theory. But not a single company I worked with had a detailed understanding of the theory and a framework for turning the theory into product ideas, service offerings, or business model innovations.

If you fast forward to today, Jobs to be Done is far more widespread. Hiring managers seek applicants who have experience conducting Jobs research. Companies as diverse as Clorox, Home Depot, and Facebook are giving talks on the theory at conferences. The question I get from companies is no longer “What is Jobs to be Done?” but rather “How can we improve the way we’re using Jobs to be Done?” Those who are farthest along in the journey are wondering how they can take the concept to new levels, such as using Jobs to be Done to size markets and compare vastly different ideas. Others, however, have encountered hurdles as their organizations begin using Jobs to be Done for the first time. For those in the latter group, I’ve gathered five of the most common challenges that companies have when they adopt Jobs to be Done, as well as some solutions for avoiding those struggles. …

About

Dave Farber

Author of Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation. Growth strategy / innovation expert

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