It’s about the Job, not the Product
There are two concepts that I’ve been thinking about lately to apply back to FuturEar. The first is the framework known as “Jobs-to-be-Done.” I’ve touched on it briefly in previous posts in regards to how it applies to voice technology and the mobile app economy, but it’s a framework that can be applied to just about anything and is worth expanding on because I think it’s going to increasingly impact consumer’s decision-making process when it comes to choosing which type of ear-worn device(s) and software solutions they purchase and wear. This will ring especially true as said devices become more capable and can be worn for longer periods of time as their feature-set broadens and the underlying technology continues to mature.
“Jobs-to-be-Done” is the idea that every product and service, physical or digital, can be “hired” by a consumer to complete a job they’re looking to accomplish. Using this framework, it’s essential to first understand the job it is that the consumer is looking to accomplish and then work backward to figure out which product or service to hire. Clay Christensen, who developed this framework, uses milk shakes as his example:
“A new researcher then spent a long day in a restaurant seeking to understand the jobs that customers were trying to get done when they hired a milk shake. He chronicled when each milk shake was bought, what other products the customers purchased, whether these consumers were alone or with a group, whether they consumed the shake on the premises or drove off with it, and so on. He was surprised to find that 40 percent of all milk shakes were purchased in the early morning. Most often, these early-morning customers were alone; they did not buy anything else; and they consumed their shakes in their cars.
The researcher then returned to interview the morning customers as they left the restaurant, shake in hand, in an effort to understand what caused them to hire a milk shake. Most bought it to do a similar job: They faced a long, boring commute and needed something to make the drive more interesting. They weren’t yet hungry but knew that they would be by 10 a.m.; they wanted to consume something now that would stave off hunger until noon. And they faced constraints: They were in a hurry, they were wearing work clothes, and they had (at most) one free hand.”
The essence of this framework is understanding that while people consume milk shakes all the time, they do so for different reasons. Some people love them as a way to stave off hunger and boredom during a long drive; others like to enjoy them as a tasty treat after a long day. You’re hiring the same product for two different jobs. Therefore, if you’re hiring a milk shake to combat boredom during a long drive, you’re choosing between other foods that might serve the same purpose (chips, sunflower seeds, etc), but if your hiring it for a tasty treat, your competing against things like chocolate or cookies. The job is what impacts the buying behavior for the product; not the other way around.
Ben Thompson, who writes daily business + technology articles for his website Stratechery, recently wrote about this framework through the lens of Uber and the emerging electric scooter economy. As he points out, Ubers and Bird or Lime scooters can be hired for a similar job, which is to get you from point A to point B in short distances. This means that for quick trips, Ubers and scooters are competing with one another, as well as walking, bikes and other forms of micro-transportation. Uber is a product that can be hired for multiple jobs (short trips, long trips, group trips, etc), while you’d only hire a scooter for one of those jobs (short trips).
The Golden Circle
The second concept I’ve been thinking about is the “Golden Circle” that Simon Sinek outlines during his famous “It Starts with Why” Ted Talk. (If you’ve never seen this Ted Talk, I highly encourage you to watch the full thing as it’s very succinct and powerful):
Simon uses the Golden Circle to illustrate why a few companies and leaders are incredibly effective at inspiring people, while others are not. The Golden Circle is comprised of three rings with “why” being at the core, “how” in the middle, and “what” in the outer ring. The vast majority of companies and leaders start from the outside and work their way in when communicating their message or value proposition – their message reads what > how > why. “Here’s our new car (what), it get’s great gas mileage and has leather seats (how), people love it, do you want to buy our car (why)?” According to Simon, the problem with this flow is that people do not buy what you do, they buy why you do it. He argues that the message’s flow show be inverted to go why > how > what.
Simon uses Apple as an example of a company that works from the inside-out. “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently (why). The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly (how). We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one (what)?”
What’s so powerful about Apple’s approach of working inside-out is that it effectively doesn’t matter what they’re selling because people are buying the why; people identify with the Apple brand of “thinking differently.” It’s why a computer company like Apple was able to introduce MP3 players, phones, watches, and headphones and we bought them in droves because people associated the new offerings with the brand; these were challenges to the status quo of each new product category. Meanwhile, Dell tried to sell MP3 players at the same time Apple was selling the iPod, but no one bought them. Why? Because people associated Dell with what they sell (computers) and so it felt weird to purchase a different type of product from them.
A Provision of Knowledgeable Assistance
Hearing care professionals can think of these two concepts in conjunction. There’s a lot of product innovation occurring within the hearing care space right now: new types of devices, improved hardware, new features and functionality, hearing aid and hearable companion apps, and other hearing-centric apps. This innovation will translate to new products that can be hired for new and existing jobs, and therefore broaden the scope of the suite of jobs that you as a hearing care professional can service. This also means that the traditional product for hire, hearing aids, is now competing with new solutions that might be better suited for specific jobs.
This is why I believe the value and the ultimate “why” of the hearing care professional is aligned with servicing the jobs that relate to hearing care, and the products that are hired are just a means to an end. To me, it’s not about what you’re selling, but rather why you’re selling those solutions – to provide people with a higher quality of life. They’re tired of not being a part of the dinner conversations they once loved, worried that their job is in jeopardy because they struggle to hear on business calls, or maybe their spouse is fed up with them having to blast the sound of the TV making it uncomfortable for them to watch TV together. They’re not coming to you to buy hearing aids, they’re coming to you because they have specific jobs that they need help with. Therefore, If new products are surfacing that might be better suited for a specific job, they should be factored into the decision making process.
As the set of solutions to enhance a patient’s quality of life continues to improve and grow over time, it will increase the demand for an expert to sort through those options and properly match solutions to the jobs they’re best suited for. In my opinion, this means that the hearing health professional needs to extend their expertise and knowledge to include additional products for hire, so long as the professional is confident that the product is capable of certain jobs. Just as Apple was able to introduce a suite a products beyond computers, the hearing care professional has the opportunity to be perceived as someone who improves a patient’s quality of life, regardless if that’s via hearing aids, cochlear implants, hearables or even apps. The differentiating value of the professional will increasingly be about serving as a provision of knowledgeable assistance through their education and expertise of all things hearing care related.
-Thanks for Reading-