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Competing Against Luck

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Competing Against Luck

The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Companies innovate successfully when they understand why customers “hire” products to do “jobs.”

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


The “Theory of Jobs to Be Done” unlocks the mystery of successful product innovation – a mystery often dismissed as luck. “Jobs Theory” holds that people don’t merely buy goods, they “hire” and “fire” products based on whether those products do the “job” that consumers need done. Companies practicing Jobs Theory know their understanding of consumer behavior helps predict successful innovation. Best-selling author and Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen and his co-authors Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon and David S. Duncan explain that the detailed observation of targeted customers – in their struggle to make progress – leads to a precise narrative that specifies the Job to Be Done. Such a narrative can serve all levels of an organization as a decision-making guide and a map of the need for an innovative product. getAbstract recommends this leap forward to professionals tackling product innovation and anxious to get it right.


The “Theory of Jobs to Be Done”

According to the Theory of Jobs to Be Done, people do not merely buy products. They “hire” products to help them make personal progress toward a specific objective. Unless the purchase and use of a product helps the consumer make progress toward his or her goal, no amount of fidgeting with its features will translate to successful innovation. Identifying a Job to Be Done calls for a narrative description of a “job” or of the specific type of progress prospective customers seek.

On the surface discerning what exactly caused a customer to purchase one product over all other choices may be difficult. But if you look more closely, what customers hire – and equally importantly, what they “fire” – tells a story. That story is about the functional, emotional and social dimensions of their desire for progress – and what prevents them from getting there. The challenge is in becoming part sleuth and part documentary filmmaker by piecing together clues and observations to reveal what jobs customers are trying to get done. This construct can help product marketers clarify the processes that drive their consumers’ choices to buy and sell.


About the Authors

Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen’s nine books include The Innovator’s Dilemma. He and co-author Karen Dillon, former Harvard Business Review, also co-wrote the bestseller How Will You Measure Your Life? Taddy Hall is a principal with the Cambridge Group. David S. Duncan is a senior partner at Innosight.

Comment on this summary

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    A. 7 years ago
    Yet another book filled with platitudes and general information that is already known. There are a number of other books out there on this topic that provide the same information and in a more interesting ant useful way.
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    M. C. 7 years ago
    #Shantanu Ghosh
    Cannot agree more. An old-fashioned marketing concept.
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    S. G. 7 years ago
    Bit of a disappointment given the credentials of the author. Different terminology to customer needs insights theories that's been around for decades.