Now Hiring a Solution

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Theodore Levitt was famous for telling his Harvard business students that people don’t need a quarter-inch drill, they need a quarter-inch hole.

A drill is just one way to get a hole.

Business innovation guru and author Clayton Christensen tells the story of helping a fast-food chain that wanted to increase milkshake sales. After a thorough observation, Christensen asked milkshake buyers what job they were hiring the milkshake for. By framing the problem in this new way, they got insights that led to unforeseen solutions.

Inspired by Levitt’s drill/hole idea and the milkshake experience, Christensen dubbed the concept “jobs to be done.”

The problem is that it’s easy to put the drill before the hole—the what before the why.

Nowadays, selling to peoples’ innermost needs and fears is a familiar enough concept. Car companies don’t sell anti-lock breaks, they sell peace of mind. But this idea is still overlooked by organizations with transformative products and services. (Not that there’s anything wrong with cars.)

What if you applied the “jobs to be done” to your own business?

Would you hire your current website for a job, paying it a salary and giving it benefits? How will you change someone’s mind with a new logo? Will a Facebook page enhance someone’s day, or be overlooked in light of all the other choices? What if your annual report were required to inspire a new behavior or action instead of delivering facts?

A logo, website or a Facebook page is not the problem. And often, neither is needing more sales or fulfilling a requirement.

Defining the real problem—which lies with the people you’re trying to reach—not only can have immediate results, but more importantly, cultivates trust and confidence for bigger results down the road.

This only really works if your product or service is an authentic solution to a real problem your prospects have and not one you hope them to have.

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(Image credit: Flicker/Creative Commons: teddyllovet)

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