Feb 10, 2020

Book Review: When coffee and kale compete by Alan Klement

As a product enthusiast, I have been exploring the concept of Jobs-to-be-done framework and its applications in building products customers love. The popular milkshake example by Clayton Christensen was such an "aha" moment when I read about it a few years back. I had jotted down a few thoughts on the same topic. Intercom's e-book on Jobs-to-be-done is a fantastic resource to understand this theory in detail. A few people that I have found to be sharing interesting perspectives on JTBD are Kathy Sierra, Samuel Hulick, Ryan Singer, Des Traynor, Paul Adams and Alan Klement. Kathy Sierra's Badass: Making users awesome is such an interesting book that I read a few years back. That reminds me, I should revisit it soon.

I recently finished reading this book on JTBD / Customer Jobs theory written by Alan Klement titled "When coffee and kale compete" (available on Kindle Unlimited).

If you are unfamiliar with the Jobs concept, the author takes the time to explain the need and context of why this theory is important in today's context. So this book could be the first step for anyone stepping into the world of JTBD. He explains the concepts along with relevant case studies of how various organizations have been applying this framework to create value.

The basic shift in the way we talk about "value creation" is summed up in this sentence
"Instead of attaching value to what products are, value should attach to what products do for customers."

In today's age of Creative Destruction, where new innovations disrupt the sales of incumbent ones and go on to replace them, Customer Jobs theory helps us to understand why customers buy a product to complete a Job to be Done. It is also imperative to not just focus on customers' needs and expectations of today but also create new systems that help customers make progress.

The author emphasizes on approaching Jobs as a way towards making progress. The basic premise that Self-betterment is a core human behavior helps us to unravel this idea "jobs-as-a-measure-of-progress" in a structured way. It makes sense across all use cases, irrespective of B2C or B2B.
What's the desire every customer has to improve themselves and their life situations?
How customers imagine their lives being better when they have the right solution?
"We can't build the products of tomorrow when we limit ourselves to the needs and expectations associated with the products of today. Instead, we should focus on what never changes for customers: their desire for progress."

The author defines JTBD as
"A Job to be Done is the process a consumer goes through whenever she aims to transform her existing life-situation into a preferred one, but cannot because there are constraints that stop her."

The few key principles behind Customer Jobs theory are
  • Favor progress over outcomes and goals
  • Customers need to feel successful at every touchpoint between themselves and your business
  • Design your product to deliver customers an ongoing feeling of progress
  • Focus on delivering emotional progress and not focus solely on functionality

The case studies are quite detailed and showcase how the Jobs theory can be used across a wide set of use-cases. The chapters that talk about the four forces of progress - pushes, pulls, inertia and anxieties were quite insightful. Pushes and pulls are part of demand generation, whereas inertias and anxieties lead to demand reduction.

A few questions I had jotted down that I plan to use for my work:
What's the business situation that prompts customers to take action?
What are the struggles/aspirations that push customers to take action? => helps us to unravel the motivation for change
What are the events that influenced the customer to take action?
What does progress mean for our customers? Not just in terms of functionality, but also emotional progress.
How does his transformed life look like, after he has adopted our platform?
What other solutions have they tried? Is it a single solution or a combination of different solutions?
What did they like or don't like about these solutions tried? => helps us to unravel what they value.
From which budget will our product take money from? => competition is a zero-sum game
What are those triggering events that would push the customers move from the solution tried to a new one?

This book has loads of insights and questions that would make you stop and ponder. If you are an innovator, product manager, product marketer or startup founder, I'm sure you would have plenty of takeaways. I highly recommend that you check out this book.

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