You often have to observe behaviors to detect what people want, you can’t just ask them. This one comes from Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business professor and author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma.”
A fast food chain wanted to sell more milkshakes. They’d ask customers: what can we do to the milkshake so you’ll buy more? One customer would request it chunkier, the other smoother, one sweeter, the other more bland. The company was stumped.
So Christensen and his colleague asked a beautiful question. “I wonder what job arsises in people’s lives that causes them to come to this restaurant to ‘hire’ a milkshake?” Christensen is interested in observing products and services from the perspective of what its “job to be done” is.
Companies focus too much on what they want to sell their customers, rather than what those customers really need. What’s missing is empathy: a deep understanding of what problems customers are trying to solve. – Clayton Christensen.
Upon closer inspection, they found a distinction between morning customers and evening customers. The early birds were looking for something to do on their commute – a manageable breakfast. These morning customers wanted something that lasted for awhile, longer than a banana, and was easier to eat while driving, cleaner than a donut. The milkshake was a great fit for this job. The evening customers, were mostly parents with kids. For them, the milkshake fulfilled a different job. It was a treat for their kid.
But as it stood, the current milkshake was doing neither job particularly well. Recognizing these insights, Christensen purposes making the milkshake more viscous and longer lasting for the morning customers who want to savor their morning commute treat, while providing a self serve machine to help expedite their rush. For the parents with kids in the evening, he suggests a smaller serving size.
Regardless of the solution, framing the problem properly is what fueled a small but impactful innovation insight in this example.
Christensen, C., & Allworth, J. (2012). What Job Did You Hire That Milkshake For? In How will you measure your life? New York, NY: Harper Business.