In life, you can do everything right and still fail. Same goes for business. A well run, seemingly thriving company nose dives, succumbing to disruption. It’s the classic innovator’s dilemma and it’s not just threatening organizations being run perfectly – but also those being run extremely similarly, warns Clay Christensen, the world’s leading expert on innovation and growth.
“If smart people have a vigorous theory about how the world works, they’ll fail less,” explained Christensen, architect of and foremost authority on disruptive innovation theory, during a recent and provocative fireside chat with Marc Andreessen, entrepreneur and venture firm founding partner. “But when you continue to teach the theory, it creates a problem.”
Namely, if everybody does everything right and the same way, the doors to disruption open. And as the model of building and funding companies increasingly becomes a repeatable science – consider Silicon Valley’s Unicorns (those companies theoretically worth $1 billion+) – industries, founders and investors open themselves to the risk of being shaken up and taken down by true innovators.
Christensen urges them to reconsider “measuring success by… how quickly you can get your money out,” and instead focus on what he calls the “jobs to be done.” He points to banks as an example: the job to be done is processing payments rather than trying to cover the lending, investing and saving trifecta.
After all, customers don’t buy their products and services; they hire them to do a job. And understanding which jobs need to be done is critical to innovation success. This is the pivotal premise of Christensen’s jobs to be done framework – and the crux of his forthcoming book, “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” (HarperBusiness, October 2016).
No one person or company can do everything or be everything for everybody. It’s true in life and in business.
You might also be interested in watching Christensen’s keynote address at Startup Grind Global 2016, which asks – and answers – the question, “Where Do Great Ideas Come From?”