How to get a job-to-be-done done completely differently
Let's take a look at the paint industry through the Jobs to be Done lens
A few months ago, I had to do some painting and noticed that Behr had this round hole in the lid. So, I took the cap off and poured the paint out of the hole and was not impressed with results. But when I went back to get a second can, a different person was on duty in the paint department and handed me a plastic contraption that looked like a spout. She told me that not only was it designed to unscrew the cap on that hole, but you could also flip it over and attach it to the hole to act as a spout.
That actually worked very well, and it got me to thinking about a project I did with a paint manufacturer. There were two factions: those who wanted to study the job of changing the color of a wall (simplistic, yes), and those who wanted to study the use of paint. Which camp do you think I was in? I lost but we did learn that people don’t like the way paint drips and stays in lip of the can...something I could’ve told you 40 years ago, and I’m sure you could too. The video verbatims were tear-jerking (we weren’t involved in that part thankfully).
We did study the job of painting a room (including DIY’ers and Pros), the complexities faced in certain situations, and the many needs they use to determine how well they got the job done. There was value in it far beyond how paint cans work. But I digress...
This is one of the challenges of innovation. Most companies see the market through the lens of what they sell, and this is why many of them eventually disappear when what they sell becomes irrelevant. All industries drive to zero, which is just another way of saying all industries will become irrelevant at some point.
How do products become irrelevant?
I’ve tried to explain this using music as the backdrop. Over the years, we switched to solutions (with micro brand switching between innovations) that helped us to not only listen to music differently, but also tightly integrate related things we needed to do before, during and after listening to music that required an array of separate solutions and consumption chains. There is always a progression toward getting the entire job done on a single platform. But if you’re unwilling to accept a different framing of your market you will never see the organic path forward for your brand, and your solution / industry will eventually become obsolete.
I’m sure you can think of some examples.
Alexa is a pretty cool platform regardless of everyone’s privacy concerns. I just purchased some smart light bulbs at Costco and added them as Alexa devices. It actually helps me to get a number of jobs done, but one of them is changing the ambience of the room. I can change the brightness and I can change the color! Yes, I set mine to brown sometimes when I need a night light! I can also turn them on and off on a schedule, ramp them up and down in brightness over time, and also change the colors all automatically.
Now, back to the paint manufacturer. Can anyone see where I’m going?
This did come up during the project I was involved with, but mostly as an aside. How frequently do people want to change the color of the walls in a particular room? The answer is constrained by the difficulty in doing so. We can hypothesize that a subset of end users would value the ability to change the color of their walls on demand. Their satisfaction with current methods would only diminish once they saw new and less painful ways to do this. But we know today that changing the color of a wall is a difficult chore. And this is why I now use difficulty over satisfaction.
But imagine if you could change the color of any wall you choose for each season? What if you could change it for a special occasion, and then change it back? What if you could change the color throughout the day? What if you could actually light the room with your preferred wall color and brightness whenever your mood changed?
I was recently inspired when I attended the Van Gogh Exhibition: The Immersive Experience (vangoghexpo.com) in Atlanta. While this was projection-based, it shows what can be done to a plain old room with the technology we have today. It was pretty amazing!
In order to do this requires us to get the job of changing the color of a wall done differently. We would need to eliminate the array of tools, expertise and resources needed to change the color of a wall today - and thereby the time and errors - and bundle them up into a simple package. Is the real threat to paint manufacturers going to come from other paint manufacturers where there is a constant effort to get people to switch brands and/or push competitors out of lucrative channels? Or will it come from the construction materials industry (or even somewhere else)?
“Alexa, change the room color to Minor Blue”
“Alexa, put a random collection of framed watercolor landscapes on the south wall of the living room and make the wall creamy white”
“Alexa, make my room look like an Austin Powers party scene for the next 5 hours! Yea, baby, Yea!”
How long will it take before a non-traditional competitor sees this opportunity? What is the likelihood of the paint industry completely changing their business without such a threat? How long before Amazon partners with emerging disruptors to integrate their new products into the Alexa platform? Maybe Amazon begins investing in the construction materials industry itself. Who knows? They’ve never been very good at disruption. 😎
But when it happens, and given that we live in an increasingly digital world, how quickly will these established, old industries be able to survive on their diminishing switcher pool? What hurdles currently exist preventing this from happening and how long will it take to develop the capabilities needed to introduce such a solution, and accelerate its penetration into homes and businesses?
40 years ago, we had The Clapper (clap on, clap off, The Clapper!). There was no way to manage these digitally or update the product like we can now do with ubiquitous broadband connectivity. Last year we had smart plugs that would turn everything off and on that was plugged into it which could be controlled by an app, or by Alexa. This year we have more precision, and the capability has moved into specific devices like light bulbs. I wonder what next year will bring. How about you? 👇
What other industries do you think this might happen to? Jobs-to-be-Done is a great lens to think through the possibilities, even if we don’t currently have the capabilities necessary to deliver a step perfectly (or at all) today. You can be a capability leader / creator, or you can spot the emerging capabilities and incorporate them into solutions that get more of the job done better, more quickly, more frequently and with fewer errors.