Curso Job-to-be-done / Jobs to be done theory - why do innovation projects fail? feat. Ulwick


  • Scope: Jobs-to-be-done course
  • Study notes by Marcio S Galli
  • Status: Working draft
  • Reference meeting: talk — j2bd — Ulwick's book PDF "Job to be done" — Theory - Why do innovation projects fail? 584ba55d-48c0-447c-9735-ff80df1c7f3c Monday, December 30⋅8:45 – 10:00pm
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Subject of study

  • Type: Book, PDF
  • Title: Jobs to be Done - Theory to Practice
  • Author: Anthony W. Ulwick
  • Date published: 2016
  • Book PDF:
  • Author: Anthony Ulwick

"Why do innovation projects fail?" (P31) - first defining innovation and identifying approaches to innovation

  • Let's look at innovation.

  • Innovation relates to bringing solutions effectively to the market, to customers, to people. Different from an invention that is more associated with the event and less with the impact;

  • According to Ulwick (p31), innovation brings solutions resolving customer's needs;

  • Thus, a relationship with customers;

  • Thus, a relationship with their needs;

Two different (popular) approaches to innovation

  • "Ideas-first" - in general, this approach consists of coming up with product or service ideas, followed by testing in validating the ideas with customers against customer needs.

  • "Needs-first" - in this other approach, "companies first learn what the customer's needs are, then discover which needs are unmet, and then devises a solution that addresses those unmet needs. " (P.31)

  • The look from Ulwick, when doing this theory analysis, seems to look for performance aspects, for these popular approaches. He is particularly looking at how a process or method could improve the chances of a group being more rigorous in the science (or art?) Of bringing solutions to solve the market/consumer needs.

Ideas-first approach / and reasons why it is flawed

  • Assumption - Innovation success directly related to the number of ideas;

  • Assumption - Quantity of ideas, and quantity of bad ideas killed, in cheaper and faster approach directly impact success;

  • Assumption - fail-fast approach, referenced by Innovator's Guide to Growth, Harvard Business Press, 2008.

3 reasons for why it would not work according to Ulwick (p.35)

  • 1 - more ideas is not significant to provide scaling improvement in the process - Ulwick suggests that more ideas faster does not improve the probability for removing failure out of the way, what seemed for me a suggestion that going towards the fail-fast would be a work that would take too long considering the probabilities involved; of course he is considering here the presented methods, that I didn't read, but would guess these to be methods that focused in speed and cost without considering the necessary learning curve which is critical in any lean method. It's noticable from this section that Ulwick have not compared modern lean methods.

On customer development - Ulwick does not bring customer development, or other lean methods, in this section (p.35). However it seemed for me that Steve Blank's customer development advocates for a method that starts with an vision first, followed by the validation.

  • 1 - on more ideas and not significant improvement - anyway the point from Ulwick seems to be that more ideas approach, disconnected from learning, would lead to insignificant improvement considering the probabilities of customer unmet needs arrangements.

  • 2 - evaluation of filtering methods is flawed (p.37) - these current methods would even consider bad ideas to move up, and as well fail to see great ones. And this is due to not acknowledging customer unmet needs. The methods commonly used that Ulwick refers are: cojoint analysis, paired comparisons, forced-choice scaling techniques, surveys, and qualitative methods such as focus groups. He claim that the methods, supposed to improve learnings for best ideas, fail because these methods rely on customers to evaluate the ideas. One point of failure is that the set of ideas can be weak; an obvious point. Other is that Customers would not be able to connect technology with needs.

  • 3 - customers cannot express the solutions they want - due to the fact that the customer is not generally an engineer or designer.

A consideration here to be brought to this discussion is the work from Eric von Hippel, user innovation and free innovation, specifically this last one, that elaborates on the producer-consumer dynamism.

Needs-first approach / and reasons why it fails in execution

  • See next episode

Marcio é um empreendedor com interesse em inovação, empreendedorismo, cultura e gestão. Formado em ciências da computação, Marcio fez seu estágio de graduação no Vale do Silício em uma das empresas que marcaram a história da Internet (Netscape Communications). Posteriormente mudou-se para o Vale do Silício trabalhando para Netscape / America Online, Yahoo! e posteriormente ao voltar ao Brasil, para a Mozilla Corporation (criadores do navegador Firefox). Antes de se tornar empreendedor e consultor, Marcio pôde colaborar com vários departamentos como marketing, inovação, engenharia e em times de documentação e evangelismo. Se tornou autor de patentes internacionais e gosta de estudar e escrever para os futuros empreendedores e gestores. Marcio é apaixonado por comunicação, negócios, tecnologia e cultura. Alguns dos seus livros preferidos são High Output Management, Conscious Business, The Hard Things about Hard Things, Maslow on Management, The Startup of You, The Alliance, Zero to One, dentre outros.

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