Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Competing Against Luck

Rate this book
The foremost authority on innovation and growth presents a path-breaking book every company needs to transform innovation from a game of chance to one in which they develop products and services customers not only want to buy, but are willing to pay premium prices for.

How do companies know how to grow? How can they create products that they are sure customers want to buy? Can innovation be more than a game of hit and miss? Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen has the answer. A generation ago, Christensen revolutionized business with his groundbreaking theory of disruptive innovation. Now, he goes further, offering powerful new insights.

After years of research, Christensen has come to one critical conclusion: our long held maxim—that understanding the customer is the crux of innovation—is wrong. Customers don’t buy products or services; they "hire" them to do a job. Understanding customers does not drive innovation success, he argues. Understanding customer jobs does. The "Jobs to Be Done" approach can be seen in some of the world’s most respected companies and fast-growing startups, including Amazon, Intuit, Uber, Airbnb, and Chobani yogurt, to name just a few. But this book is not about celebrating these successes—it’s about predicting new ones.

Christensen contends that by understanding what causes customers to "hire" a product or service, any business can improve its innovation track record, creating products that customers not only want to hire, but that they’ll pay premium prices to bring into their lives. Jobs theory offers new hope for growth to companies frustrated by their hit and miss efforts.

This book carefully lays down Christensen’s provocative framework, providing a comprehensive explanation of the theory and why it is predictive, how to use it in the real world—and, most importantly, how not to squander the insights it provides.

288 pages, ebook

First published October 4, 2016

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Clayton M. Christensen

95 books1,880 followers
Clayton M. Christensen is the Robert and Jane Cizik Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School, with a joint appointment in the Technology & Operations Management and General Management faculty groups. He is best known for his study of innovation in commercial enterprises. His first book, The Innovator's Dilemma, articulated his theory of disruptive technology.

Christensen was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, the second of eight children. He holds a B.A. with highest honors in economics at Brigham Young University (1975), an M.Phil. in applied econometrics and the economics of less-developed countries at Oxford University (1977, Rhodes Scholar), an MBA with High Distinction at the Harvard Business School (1979, George F. Baker Scholar), and a DBA at the Harvard Business School (1992).

Clay Christensen lives in Belmont, Massachusetts with his five children, wife Christine, and is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has served in several leadership positions in the Church. He served as an Area Seventy beginning in April 2002. Prior to that he served as a counselor in the Massachusetts Boston Mission Presidency. He has also served as a bishop. He speaks fluent Korean.

Christensen is currently battling follicular lymphoma.

For further details and an ordered list of the author's works, see the author's Wikipedia page.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,173 (42%)
4 stars
1,884 (36%)
3 stars
740 (14%)
2 stars
214 (4%)
1 star
102 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 423 reviews
Profile Image for Raymond Hofmann.
1 review10 followers
November 2, 2016
More than 10’000 business books are published each year and most of them are rubbish. But every year there are also some gems. And among the gems there’s usually a few candidates for the business book hall of fame. True greats that hold timeless wisdom - content that will be relevant for many, many years to come.

Competing against Luck by Clayton Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon and David S. Duncan is one of them. It’s a book about innovation and customer choice.
Innovation is the lifeblood of our economy. If companies don’t innovate they don’t grow and they don’t create jobs.

Large scale failure to innovate is a problem and it’s at the heart of what we’re seeing in developed economies today - almost zero growth and stubbornly high unemployment rates pushed up by one jobless recovery after another.

I’m strongly convinced that the problem is a microeconomic, not a macroeconomic one. That’s why all the government stimulus programs and central banks opening the money supply floodgates have proven largely ineffective. If anything, the resulting abundance of money, zero or even negative interest rates and skyrocketing government debt are more likely to have negative effects on growth and jobs. But that would be for another post.

No, the root cause can be found at the level of the individual enterprise that fails to innovate. Two main factors are at play.

The first is what Clayton Christensen in some of his earlier work called the Capitalist’s Dilemma, which makes it perfectly rational for managers to eliminate jobs, rather than to invest in innovation that creates jobs.

The second is that innovation in most companies is still painfully hit and miss. Essentially, we rely on luck. And it shows. According to a recent McKinsey poll, 84% of global executives declared that innovation is extremely important to their growth strategies, yet an incredible 94% were unsatisfied with their own innovation performance.

How can that be? It seems we’ve largely been asking the wrong questions. We’ve been pre-occupied with product features, performance attributes, customer segments - and correlation (as in “this customer looks like that one”, “68% of customers prefer version A over version B”). Big Data has fueled this approach even more. Yet correlation isn’t causation. None of that data tells us why customers make the choices they make. A simple example from the book’s introduction: Clay is 64 years old, six feet eight tall, has shoe size 16, is married and has four children who all went to college. He lives in a Boston suburb and drives a Honda minivan to work. But none of that caused him to buy the New York Times today.

Here’s where Jobs Theory, the central theory of this book, steps in. It’s all focused on the underlying causal mechanisms of customers’ choices. The fundamental question to ask is "what causes a customer to purchase and use a particular product or service?" The big idea is that customers “hire” products or services for a job they need to get done, i.e., to make progress in their lives in particular circumstances.

A great example is Uber, which perfectly nails a job to be done. One that is about much more than simply taking you from point A to point B. It also removes the hassle of hailing a cab on a busy street corner. You just tap a button on your phone, then relax and wait to be picked up, knowing exactly whether it will take 3 or 7 minutes. You also don’t have to worry whether you’ve got enough cash or wether the cab will accept credit cards. And since you know who’s picking you up and drivers are rated, it also eases your anxieties of getting into a cab alone. The Uber example nicely illustrates that jobs do not only have functional, but also social and emotional dimensions.

The book is full of other great examples. Amazon, Netflix, Intuit, SNHU, ING Direct, Medtronic, IKEA, CVS Minute-Clinics and Airbnb or only some of the insightful case studies featured. What’s more, even seemingly dull products like milk shakes or mattresses offer revelations when looked at through a jobs lens.

The theory and many great examples are covered in section 1 of the book. This on its own makes the book worth reading.

What makes it truly great, however, is the practical guidance in the remainder of the book. This is something I often miss in business books. They may introduce a neat idea but often lack any insights into what it means to practically apply it. And since management is a practice, that makes such books largely useless.

Section 2 is all about how we discover jobs to be done. Yes, that’s right: jobs are discovered, not created. And the secret lies not in the tools you use, but in what you’re looking for. For instance, you might look for frustrating experiences, workarounds, “nonconsumption” or unusual usage of a product. It all has to do with developing a deep understanding of your customers and the progress they’re trying to make in their lives. Often times they cannot describe what they really want, but every “hire” of a product or service (and every “fire” as well) tells a story. It is your job to uncover and document that story - and as you piece the information together, the opportunity for innovation begins to emerge. It’s important we never forget that new products don’t succeed because of the features and functionality they offer but because of the experiences they enable.

Again, the section is packed with examples covering such diverse fields as adult incontinence, bank accounts, girl’s dolls or paying a visit to the doctor.

As if that were not enough, the authors also investigate implications for the wider organisational context, something that particularly excites me as an organisation designer. After all, what good are wonderful methods if your organisation’s design makes it virtually impossible for them to be applied in practice?

That’s what section 3 is all about. Competitive advantage comes from unique processes and how an organisation integrates across functions to perform the customer’s job. But in most cases nobody is in charge of understanding - and ensuring that the company is delivering on - the job of a customer. Make sure your next reorganisation integrates everyone around a customer’s job!

But of course it goes further than that: Jobs Theory not only changes what you optimize your processes to do, but also how you measure their success. Internal performance metrics need to make way for externally relevant customer-benefit metrics. Process optimization is no longer about efficiency only, but also about becoming better at performing the customer’s job.

So ask yourself: how do you make sure that the customer’s job guides all critical decisions in product development, marketing, operations and customer service? Are all the different functions involved in nailing a customer’s job perfectly aligned or are they in conflict?

And how do you make sure you never lose sight of why customers hired you in the first place? This last one is of particular importance, because as soon as a new product is out in the market, organisations generate oceans of operational data about the product itself, the customer, productivity of people and facilities as well as benchmarking data about the competition. It is then very easy to fall into the trap of managing for these numbers. Up to the point where the company solves a job for itself - and no longer that of its customers.

As you might have guessed by now, I love this book. It addresses a critical problem from which companies and our economies are suffering. It does so with an incredible focus on practically making a difference, not just on outlining a neat theory. It goes to great lengths to help us apply the theory.

Despite it’s practicality, what you won’t find in the book are simple checklists, tools and recipes that promise quick success. And that’s a good thing. It accounts for the inherent complexity of our world and pays tribute to the fact that successful innovation is and remains hard work. The book’s strength lies in that it teaches us how to think about innovation, which is infinitely more powerful than what to think (which even if true in one particular case is utterly useless or even dangerous in a different context).

Peter Drucker said long ago that “the only valid purpose of a company is to create a customer”. This book is a great guide to turn that profound insight into action. It is still hard work, but when it comes to innovation, you no longer have to rely on luck. You can leave that to your competition.
Profile Image for Bharath.
570 reviews434 followers
January 6, 2018
While I have read about Clayton Christensen’s theory on disruption and also his work, this is his first book that I read. After wanting to read his work for long, I have finally got to it.

The book discusses how innovation need not be about luck. There is a way to innovate and most companies can find. This is where “Jobs Theory” comes in – innovation is not about asking the customer what they want or the problems they face, more importantly it works when you understand what job the customer is trying to get done and considering hiring your product for. The book starts off with a simple example of a milkshake people buy in the morning and drink while they are driving. It helps them pass the time with it’s thick consistency, other that being filling. Milkshakes in the afternoon would serve an entirely different purpose.

Customers “hire” a product from a vendor to get a job done. If they find that there are better ways to get the job done, they will move away from the product. There are numerous examples through the book on how the “Jobs Theory” can be applied. The case studies are all extremely sound and do reinforce the theory. Thinking in terms of the outcome the customer wants is far more powerful than in terms of features and functions.

The material in the book is not entirely new and there are parallels with concepts such as design thinking and outcome based services. Yet the book deserves credit for simplifying the framework and presenting it in a form which can be put to use quickly. And the examples in the book all help to think of similar situations which might exist in other organisations.

Experience, which is such a big theme in product success today, however, finds far less coverage than I think it should in the book. Also it relies on customer behaviours being somewhat unchanging. A key question is whether a product can significantly cause customers to change their behaviours and look to get entirely new jobs done. I believe some products have done that.

This is an important book for business executives to read. It is thought provoking and scores by outlining the concept in simple language backed by exceptionally good case studies.
Profile Image for Yevgeniy Brikman.
Author 3 books589 followers
August 8, 2022
This is the book that defines the "Jobs to be Done" (JTBD) theory, which is quite useful & powerful. The organization of this book is a bit weird, and as is often the case with business books, there is a lot of jargon/filler, but JTBD is an important tool to learn about, so it's still worth reading.

Here are my key takeaways.

1. Introducing JTBD theory

Here's the core idea behind JTBD theory:

“When we buy a product, we essentially "hire" something to get a job done. If it does the job well, when we are confronted with the same job, we hire that same product again. And if the product does a crummy job, we "fire" it and look around for something else we might hire to solve the problem.”

The idea is to identify the very specific job the customer is hiring you to do, and to organize your product, marketing, sales, and all internal processes around delivering on that job.

A good way to understand this is to look at an example. The classic example used to introduce JTBD theory is the milkshake. Before JTBD theory, people would try to optimize the milkshake based on customer demographics (e.g., age, gender, profession, geography), but it was ineffective. What turned out to be more effective was to understand the "job" a customer was "hiring" a milkshake for. It turns out that there are actually two jobs:

1. I'm a commuter and I need something to eat during a long drive.
2. I'm a parent and I need something fun to entertain my kids.

Note that:

- These are two completely different circumstances.
- The criteria according to which you evaluate options in these two JTBD are completely different.
- The competitors are completely different: for (1), the competitors are bagels, protein bars, and juice, whereas for (2), the competitors are toy stores and sports activities.
- The products, sales, and marketing you'd put in place are completely different: for (1), the product needs to be filling, long-lasting, and easy & clean to eat on the go; the sales process is perhaps a drive-in or rapid takeaway; the marketing is all about business people. For (2), the product needs to be catered to the tastes of a child, smaller, and in fun packaging kids would enjoy; the sales process is in-person, with a place to sit and spend lots of time; the marketing is all about kids, enjoyment, and sharing special moments with your children.
- A one-size-fits-all solution would work for neither one! This is why knowing your exact, specific JTBD is essential.

2. Defining the "job" in JTBD theory

The "job" in JTBD has a very specific definition:

- A job is the progress an individual seeks in a given circumstance.
- To be successful, a product must enable that progress better than previous options.
- Jobs aren't only functional: they have emotional and social dimensions too.
- Jobs are part of the daily flow of life, so the circumstance in which they happen is the essential unit of innovation. It's more important to design for that circumstance than for customer characteristics, product attributes, new technologies, or trends.

It's also worth considering what is not a "job":

- A job is not just a bunch of adjectives / adverbs: e.g., "convenience" is not a JTBD. A real JTBD consists of verbs and nouns: e.g., "I need a way to write books verbally, without having to type."
- A job is not a JTBD if it can only be solved by products in the same product class. E.g., "I need a chocolate milk shake in a 12 oz disposable container" is not a job. It could only be solved by one class of product. You need to go one level of abstraction higher: e.g., "I need something I can eat while commuting in the morning that will fill me up for several hours." The candidates to do this job are all in different product classes: e.g., banana, doughnut, bagel, coffee, milk shake.

3. Figuring out the JTBD

A good way to figure out the JTBD is to imagine you're filming a mini documentary of a person struggling to make progress in a particular circumstance. The video should include:

- What progress is the person trying to achieve? This should include functional, emotional, and social dimensions. E.g., "I want to have a smile that will make a great first impression in work and personal life."

- What are the circumstances of the struggle? Who, when, and where, while doing what? E.g., "I see a dentist twice a year and brush my teeth as directed, but they never look white enough to me."

- What obstacles are getting in the way of making progress? E.g., "I've tried whitening toothpastes, but they never seem to work."

- Are consumers making do with incomplete solutions? E.g., "I bought a home tooth whitening kit but it's uncomfortable and hurts my teeth." More on identifying competitors in the next section.

- How would they define what "quality" means for a better solution and what tradeoffs are they willing to make? E.g., "I want the whitening of a professional treatment, but without the cost and inconvenience."

Note that if you have an existing product, you can sometimes uncover new JTBDs by looking for unusual ways that customers use your product. E.g., In the past, baking soda makers thought it was only used for baking, but learned customers were also using it laundry detergent, getting out carpet stains, absorbing smells in the fridge, etc. These all uncovered new JTBDs and therefore, potential new approaches to product, sales, marketing, etc.

Peter Drucker: "The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling him."

4. Identifying competitors

- You should identify the full list of competing products for your JTBD.
- Sometimes, you'll find customers who couldn't find a product to do the job, so they cobble together a solution themselves. This is often a sign of a big opportunity, as it shows the customer wants a solution so much they are willing to take their own time to try to solve it.
- It's also possible a consumer isn't using anything to solve this problem ("nonconsumption"). This can also be a big opportunity: instead of trying to steal customers away from competitors, if you can discover a JTBD with no known solutions, you can uncover a huge market.
- One useful question to ask: what product will have to be "fired" in order for a customer to "hire" your product? Thinking about what you're replacing can unlock lots of valuable insights.
- Knowing your true competitors (based on the JTBD) is critical to success. Theodore Levitt wrote back in the 1960s that the railroad industry declined not because the need for passenger and freight transport declined—it actually increased—but because cars, trucks, and airplanes stepped in to handle that job. Railroads were in trouble "because they assumed themselves to be in the railroad business rather than in the transportation business."

5. Organizing around the JTBD

Uncovering your JTBD, creating a product experience around it, and integrating the company and its internal processes around the job can give you a competitive advantage that is hard for your competitors to understand & copy.

If everyone at the company understands the JTBD, you get (a) better distributed decision making, as everyone will understand the progress a customer is trying to make and how to unblock that progress and (b) more motivated employees, as everyone will understand what problem they are trying to solve and why their work matters.

But in order for that to happen, you need to organize the company around your JTBD. Note that most reorgs fail: the book mentions research that shows that fewer than 1/3rd or reorgs deliver any value at all, and most destroy value. The key to a successful reorg is to organize around the JTBD: align your teams and internal processes to deliver an experience that gives the consumer the progress they are looking for.

It's also critical for the company to track the right metrics. With a well-defined JTBD, you're more likely to focus on external metrics related to the customer's success: that is, those that measure whether the customer is making the progress they desire. E.g., Amazon measures how long it takes for something to be delivered (rather than shipped), as that's the progress the customer needs. Bear in mind that the metrics are always a model and that you don't want to overly obsess about what's easy to measure rather than the real progress the customer is trying to make: e.g., medical professionals can become overly obsessed with reducing blood pressure, which is easy to measure, but only a symptom of heart disease, rather than dealing with the real underlying cause of heart disease.
Profile Image for Marcin Zaremba.
Author 6 books97 followers
November 27, 2016
Książka dobrze podsumowywuje teorię Jobs To Be Done, którą Clayton stworzył jako odpowiedź na (także jego) teorię disruptive innovation.

Jeśli znasz dotychczasową twórczość autora to ta książka będzie zebraniem w jednym miejscu wszystkich wniosków i aplikacji JTBD o których pisał.

Jeśli nie znasz JTBD to musisz przeczytać, żeby zrozumieć skąd wiedzieć, że robi się właściwą rzecz dla swoich klientów. Mało idei było dla mnie tak wartościowych biznesowo jak właśnie JTBD
101 reviews1 follower
April 6, 2017
Having been active in Computer Science my whole life (since high school), I was always exposed to an endless stream of conversations around the subject of "startups" and "innovation", that after a few years becomes repetitive and very hard to take seriously.

I think this book helped rehabilitate the two words in my mind, and managed to express in simple and clear terms, via "The Theory of Jobs", what the difference is between "wantrepreneurism" and products that people can't resist paying for.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,882 reviews8 followers
August 4, 2022
This is Nonfiction/Business. I liked this one but I don't think it was really for me. I did like the way the author turned a new light on the process of innovation and the how asking the right questions leads to success and not only that, but also giving the consumer what they ultimately need and want.

So overall, 3 stars because I do like the author and the way looks at things.
Profile Image for Thomas.
Author 1 book52 followers
November 26, 2018
Lots to digest here and I think I'll need a re-read to get everything out of it. Seems like a very useful and focused approach to understanding product development and innovation. Now I'm curious about applying these ideas to platform and service engineering. Going to be thinking about this one for a while, I'm sure.
Profile Image for 3thn.
138 reviews23 followers
June 30, 2017
From our beloved professor who came up with the Innovator's Dilemma, Christensen's now back with a book 20 years later. The title "Competing Against Luck" does not really describe what the book is about. This is Christensen's own perspective on Needfinding as most of us know already today, by breaking it down into atomic pieces called "Jobs [by users/customers] to be Done". He drills in the same concept repeatedly to the reader chapter after chapter applied to different contexts. For those who already familiar with the needfinding process, this might seem repetitive, although the many examples at the industry/business wide level might be useful, for the unacquainted, this is a great lens to view why certain products exist.

One nugget from his own observations of the struggle of public schools to improve is that they fail to realize this: "We concluded that school is not a job that children are trying to do. School is one of the things that children might hire to do the job. But the job is that children need to feel successful—every day. And they need friends—every day. Sure, I could hire school to do these jobs. But I could drop out of school and hire a gang to feel successful and have friends. Or I could drop out of school, get a minimum wage job to earn some money, and buy a car—and cruise around the neighborhood with my friends." As a result, alternative schools such as Khan academy and Alt School have been set up with the explicit goal of helping children feel successful at school are succeeding at fulfilling this "job"..
Profile Image for Rishabh Srivastava.
152 reviews144 followers
June 12, 2021
Christensen posits why well run companies fail to innovate, suggests a solution for this problem (the Jobs to Be Done framework), and then describes how this solution can be implemented in large organizations

His key arguments are:
1. Companies are getting better and better at the wrong thing. Businesses have more data about customers than ever, but still don't understand what jobs customers are hiring their products to solve. This means that they often use data to drive incremental innovation instead of identifying breakthrough value

2. This is insufficient. Understanding the true causal mechanism behind why customers make the decisions they make allows you to do much more than simply understanding correlations. Customer interviews and a deep knowledge of what jobs they are hiring your product to do is instrumental for delivering breakthrough value

3. Functions like user research and customer insights allow you to have a nuanced understanding of the job to be done, and prevents you from falling in love with your solution to it. Deeply understanding jobs can help you create segmented products and features

4. Often, customers don’t have tools that match with jobs to be done. And so they do nothing. This non consumption has the potential to offer a very, very big opportunity to people who can identify the right job to be done and offer the right tools for it

5. If a consumer doesn’t see a job to be done in your product, it’s already game over. Moreover, if they hire the product for something other than its intended job to be done, you risk alienating that customer forever

6. Understand "What has to get fired for my product to get hired"? Is the pull of my product enticing though to fire the incumbent?

7. The principal pull of the incumbent is that it needs no deliberation and that some intuitive plausibility as the solution already. Loss aversion > gain maximization. So people won’t leave the incumbent solution unless the alternative is really amazing or unless it doesn't solve their job to be done. Overcoming customer anxieties is very difficult

8. One limits of Jobs to Be Done - the solution may not be clear even if you figure out what the job to be done is (knowing that flight was a job to be done did not help the Wright Brothers very much in inventing the airplane)

I liked the book, but didn't gain a unique way of looking at the world from it. It was a clear articulation of the "understand your customer, and build something that matches a keenly felt need" principle that most founders follow. But didn't offer new lenses to view the world in the way that books like The Innovator's Dilemma or 7 Powers have.
Read
June 24, 2021
This book presents the idea of Job to Be Done and proposes it as a theory to make innovation more predictable and not lucky.

It is a very interesting idea, and it is sold by the author very well. But, looking at other books, such as
"Corporate Startup", the idea of building an innovative ecosystem is still to create a favorable environment that help to spawn ideas. This contrast, in my opinion, is due to the fact that the Job To Be Done is directed to a specific Job, while building an ecosystem is more general.

Either way, the book presents game changing ideas, and my main take-aways are:
- The Job is never restrict to a specific task. There are emotional, social and economic dimension regarding it.
- Our solution is not competing only with the direct competitors, but with every alternative, including not-hiring a solution.
- There is a difference between big hire (doing the acquisition) and small hire (using the solution to solve the job). It is important to take into account both hires to fully understand the context in which a product is used.
Profile Image for José Luis.
283 reviews17 followers
March 19, 2022
Não é um livro muito recente, mas é aquela história, só agora é que ele apareceu na minha frente. Então, está valendo a leitura. O título original é Jobs to be done, a teoria dos trabalhos a serem feitos do Christensen, para guiar melhor a descoberta de inovações. Muito bom livro, cheio de exemplos interessantes, incluindo o famoso caso do milk shake, que parece ser a gênese de todo o trabalho. O entendimento deste caso leva ao entendimento de toda a teoria. Valeu a pena, a gente sempre aprende alguma coisa útil. Recomendo.
Profile Image for Dave.
141 reviews
October 11, 2016
Jobs Theory (fully the Theory of Jobs to be Done) is framed around the central construct of a 'Job' that a product or service is 'hired' to do or 'fired' for not doing. Clayton Christensen and co-authors argue that successful innovation is not dictated by luck; it's predicated on a company's ability to uncover, define, and organize to deliver on a Job to be Done (implicitly or explicitly).

The core idea of a Job to be Done is intuitive: people don't want products, they want to make progress in their life. They don't want a drill, they want a quarter inch hole. But there's a bit more nuance: the Job is only exists in a specific context (circumstances), and the Job must be fulfilled at functional, social, and emotional levels. See also: Don Norman's three levels of cognitive processing.

For many, the core ideas behind Jobs Theory—and necessary skills of practice—aren't new. Researchers should be familiar with needfinding and synthesizing goals at emotional, functional, and social levels; both are analogous to uncovering a Job. Designers should be familiar with defining end-to-end service experiences, depicting how customers will make progress on their Job in specific circumstances of use. Business leaders and consultants will be familiar with the work of aligning larger teams around a specific purpose, the Job to be Done, and implementing process and structure oriented around the customer's needs, rather than an internal (and limiting) capability or functional point of view.

Competing Against Luck unifies these themes of research, design, execution and alignment in a broad business context: innovation. It presents the case that a Jobs to be Done orientation allows businesses to remove luck from the equation with a causal understanding of why attempts to innovate will succeed or not. Design is never discussed explicitly, but Jobs Theory, rooted in business outcomes, is a strong new hook for designers to orchestrate and define what a company will deliver, and why.

From a designer's perspective, there is danger in the implicit argument that innovation, of any form, is good as long as it succeeds. Jobs Theory can be used as a framework for successful innovation, but the book never discusses or attends to the larger and long-term consequences of innovation, be it in "yellow fats" category, the transportation industry, or for companies that produce new-and-innovative packagings of flavored sugar water.
Profile Image for Caitlin.
409 reviews2 followers
February 7, 2017
Finally done! Nice when the last ~30 pages consist of long thank-yous and a giant index.

Context: the COO of my company asked me to read this, with the assumption that it would change my way of thinking about how we perform user research (aka how I do my job). Well, it didn't much work. Essentially, the theory expounded upon in this book is essentially the same as user experience at its core when viewed through the lens of capitalism.

In essence, I agree with many of the things this book posited. Yes, understanding what customer problems you're trying to solve with your product is important. Yes, a very good way to put more weight on user interviews than on analytics. Yes, it's good to have an internal process that is aligned with creating solutions for the customer problems you are targeting.

But despite being generally focused on the idea of understanding people, the underlying messages the book left me with were hollow and impersonal. The authors treat companies as giant machines - at one point, one company was lauded for having a solid enough process that they can actively churn workers every couple years. So much for valuing employees. The success of many of these companies was expressed in terms of sales figures, and the monetary results were often given more weight than the evidence that the company or product had positively affected the lives of its customers.

For the people out there (like my COO) who are more focused on analytics and less user-focused means of measuring success, this is probably a good book to read. If this books means that my company will be more focused on talking to and understanding our customers, I'm all for it. For anyone who's already user-focused, however, you'd probably be better off reading something with a firmer footing in the usability space. I would recommend "Validating Product Ideas" by Tomer Sharon or "Interviewing Users" by Steve Portigal.
Profile Image for Benjamin Shafii.
40 reviews2 followers
November 2, 2020
Some things are so true they're useless and so useless they can't be proven to be true. This book is a series of empty sentences with no real actionable advice.

The book opens with an interesting statement: You can't innovate based on the innumerable data points that are collected from customers. The author stipulates that trying to innovate based on data only leads to small incremental changes and can't lead to big innovations.

I agree.

Where I disagree is his proposed alternative:

What is the job to be done?
Why are people hiring your product vs any other product?

The author says that asking those questions lead to more significant insights. That's it.

This is uncovered in the first chapter of the book and the author then bores us with a bunch of anecdotes that we're supposed to hold as evidence for its usefulness.
8 reviews1 follower
August 6, 2018
Makes a good case for first principles. Why does someone use your product? What's the job they hire it for? Once you understand what they want to accomplish, you can figure out ways to help them to do it. There are some good insights on how "active" metrics can distort the world view with fake precision, and how processes and org structure can be a way to orient people around customers' "jobs to be done". It's a minor peeve but some case studies didn't add much to the message and could've been skipped.
Profile Image for Prasanna Sridharan.
8 reviews10 followers
July 16, 2019
A mentor suggested me this book and I am glad he did. Often in my career I have had heard topics that "we need to innovate more or we need to innovate now". I would be skeptical as to how can innovate be a planned verb? It must be a light-bulb moment or an "aha!!" moment.
However this books has some answers, it may not be a silver bullet, however it helps think in the right direction. It gives some points / samples / examples to start looking at.
A good read overall!
Profile Image for Bogdan Florin.
118 reviews44 followers
July 17, 2020
If you have read The Innovator’s Dilemma or How Will You Measure Your Life books, well, there is something that you have probably missed from the legendary Harvard professor Clay Christensen.

When I saw the title, Competing against luck, I didn't know what to expect, except a well-thought book. After finishing it I believe it's a very simple, and irrational way to look at how to make business more successful. It guides business owners and professionals not only on what to think but also how to think. It provides a lot of angles, previously unexplored, that after going through some chapters you say to yourself "Aha" or "I haven't thought about that" and dissects what others believe it doesn't make any sense to something that builds market share and more market demand. This is probably a reason that the idea is timeless.

I believe the book can be summarized as a guide on how to create products from the "Jobs to Be Done"
paradigm, and why they are "hired for" customer perspective. And if at the beginning this doesn't make any sense, after going through the first chapter, the light will shine, and you will have a much better perspective on how to think about this.

Personally I believe that the book is not only relevant for entrepreneurs and business owners, but marketers, copywriters, and every person that deals with creative endeavours related to product design, decision, promotion, and sales.

Trough the book you will discover jobs to be done framework examples with companies such as Amazon, Intuit, Uber, Airbnb, and Chobani, that crystallizes the concept and highlights it's opportunities.

The authors also share their own views about how the book came to light and the story of the job of a milkshake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WE2V7...

Here are some visual examples about the book and about how to think about the job to be done:















Key takeaways
- The Jobs to be done framework provides the guidelines when to hire and ire products based on the jobs customers want them to get done.
- A job to be done is a set of actions that follows a specific path, in specific circumstances.
- Implementing a framework like the jobs to be done will help you build a better product, and innovate around it. The examples and ways of questioning the hiring decisions will clarify, the behaviours of the customers, that can be replicated, and stimulate innovation (Think about Amazon: Broad merchandise, competitive prices, fast delivery).
- The theory clarifies consumer behaviours that impel opportunities for innovation.
- To identify the job to be done you must create a job blueprint, pretty much like a job description - in HR terms however for a shelf product, and not the ingredients of it.
- To innovate you have to look on what is the end-use of the product, and the goal that the customer tries to fulfill however they are struggling.
- If customers use the products for different use-cases that they were initially hired - you can look at this as a signal for new opportunities.
- Competition is not always other products in the category, but the non-consumers. Ie: Sleep for Netflix or Graduated people from other countries for universities.

Some favourite quotes:

The foundation of our thinking is the Theory of Jobs to Be Done, which focuses on deeply understanding your customers’ struggle for progress and then creating the right solution and attendant set of experiences to ensure you solve your customers’ jobs well, every time.

What is a job? A job is defined as the progress that a customer desires to make in a particular circumstance.

“The fundamental problem is that companies accumulate masses of data that are not organized in a way that enables them to reliably predict which ideas will succeed. But none of the data tells you why customers make the choices they do."

For me, this is a neat idea. When we buy a product, we essentially “hire” something to get a job done. If it does the job well, when we are confronted with the same job, we hire that same product again. And if the product does a crummy job, we “fire” it and look around for something else we might hire to solve the problem.

Theory of Jobs to Be Done, which focuses on deeply understanding your customers’ struggle for progress and then creating the right solution and attendant set of experiences to ensure you solve your customers’ jobs well, every time.

Creating the right experiences and then integrating around them to solve a job, is critical for competitive advantage. That’s because while it may be easy for competitors to copy products, it’s difficult for them to copy experiences that are well integrated into your company’s processes.

A job can only be defined—and a successful solution created—relative to the specific context in which it arises. There are dozens of questions that could be important to answer in defining the circumstance of a job. “Where are you?” “When is it?” “Who are you with?” “While doing what?” “What were you doing half an hour ago?” “What will you be doing next?” “What social or cultural or political pressures exert influence?”

A job is the progress that an individual seeks in a given circumstance. Successful innovations enable a customer’s desired progress, resolve struggles, and fulfill unmet aspirations.

After you’ve fully understood a customer’s job, the next step is to develop a solution that perfectly solves it. And because a job has a richness and complexity to it, your solution must, too. The specific details of the job, and the corresponding details of your solution, are critically important to ensure a successful innovation. You can capture the relevant details of the job in a job spec, which includes the functional, emotional, and social dimensions that define the desired progress; the tradeoffs the customer is willing to make; the full set of competing solutions that must be beaten; and the obstacles and anxieties that must be overcome. The job spec becomes the blueprint that translates all the richness and complexity of the job into an actionable guide for innovation. Complete solutions to jobs must include not only your core product or service, but also carefully designed experiences of purchase and use that overcome any obstacles a customer might face in hiring your solution and firing another.

“If a consumer doesn’t see his job in your product, it’s already game over.”

“With all theory building, you have to be open to finding things that the theory can’t explain – anomalies – and use them as an opportunity to strengthen it.”

“Competitive advantage is built not just by understanding customers’ jobs, but by creating the experiences that consumers seek both in purchasing and using the product or service.”

“Customers don’t buy products or services; they pull them into their lives to make progress.”

“What they hire — and equally important, what they fire — tells a story.”

“We don’t ‘create’ jobs, we discover them.”


Questions for Leaders What are the most critical details that must be included in the job spec for your target job? Do you understand the obstacles that get in customers’ way? Do your current solutions address all these details? What are the experiences of purchase and use that your customers currently have? How well do these align with the requirements of their complete job spec? Where are there opportunities to improve them?

Jobs Theory changes not only what you optimize your processes to do, but also how you measure their success. It shifts the critical performance criteria from internal financial-performance metrics to externally relevant customer-benefit metrics.

People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.
Profile Image for Austin.
170 reviews8 followers
May 16, 2017
In this book Christensen et al take aim at the long-held notion that luck need be a significant part of success, arguing that a proper understanding and application of the "Theory of Jobs" can dramatically de-risk new ventures. I'm folding their insights into the service offerings of my own business as an 'ethnography of demand' market research phase, but the book rightly argues that a clear 'job spec' expressed in verbs and nouns at the proper level of abstraction can act as an effective standard for the organization to rally around, resulting in several specific benefits: 1. distributed decision-making, 2. resource optimization, 3. inspiration, and 4. better measurement. And of course a sustainably successful enterprise!

Here are some of my favorite notes:

--"There's no such thing as 'average' in the real world. And innovating toward 'average' is doomed to fail." pg. xix (e.g. air force's failed sizing of cockpits in 1950s for 'average height' vs. better solution of adjustable seats)

--"Theories . . . teach me not what to think but rather how to think." pg. 26

--Commonly used, but highly insufficient, organizing principles in innovation are often: 1. product attributes, 2. customer characteristics, 3. trends, 4. competitive response.

--Netflix CEO Reed Hastings: "Really we compete with everything you do to relax . . . We compete with video games. We compete with drinking a bottle of wine . . . We compete with other video networks. Playing board games." pg. 37 Competing Against Luck

--"When you are solving a customer's job, your products essentially become services. What matters is not the bundle of product attributes you rope together, but the experiences you enable to help your customers make the progress they want to make." pg. 64

--"I have found that creating the right set of experiences around a clearly defined job--and then organizing the company around those experiences . . . almost inoculates you against disruption." pg. 124

--"If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, then you don't know what you are doing." ~W. Edwards Deming, pg. 153

--"All data is man-made." pg. 189. This has numerous implications, e.g. vanity of weighing quant over qual, or active over passive data.

Profile Image for Eugene.
157 reviews16 followers
September 20, 2017
the most recent book by prof. Clayton M. Christensen dedicated to the theory of "job to be done" which provides the framework of discovering true underlying needs of your customer. So you may build the organizaion around the customer's real underlying needs and instead of focusing on just features.

The book goes from Milshake experiment to building the culture of the organization so everyone would know customer's needs instead of just knowing the product, the ways companies measuring important data points (and how they do know what to measure), and finally the book discusses the criticism around this theory. I appreciate the simple language of the book along with explanations around well known goods and services: milkshake and banana, Ikea furniture, mattresses etc.

In short: go out of the building, watch and understand what your customer truly need (she may say about one thing but really "hire" another one), focus and measure things which will allow to stay focused on base characteristics (like Amazon's "vast selection, cheap prices, fast delivery"), create processes and culture.

Profile Image for Daniil Lanovyi.
381 reviews37 followers
May 28, 2019
An updated, modern guide to jobs-to-be-done theory. Well-structured, practical read with multiple examples and illustrations to the theory. Some stories might sound familiar for those who were following the author's work. A highly useful resource for everyone who's building a business.

“Creating the right experiences and then integrating around them to solve a job, is critical for competitive advantage. That’s because while it may be easy for competitors to copy products, it’s difficult for them to copy experiences that are well integrated into your company’s processes."
Profile Image for Minette.
367 reviews5 followers
January 21, 2021
This book was absolutely enlightening! I feel like anyone, anywhere who completes ANY job would benefit from reading this and getting to the crux of what their individual "job to be done" is. Leaders would benefit greatly from this book as well as it is an easy to understand framework of getting away from the "fluff" of managing and leading and really understanding people's roles in organizations but more importantly how they all interact in order to complete the "jobs to be done". Loved it, made tons of notes and looking forward to referring back to these concepts regularly.
Profile Image for Michal.
24 reviews
January 10, 2022
If you are interested in or responsible for new product development, put this book on your must-read list.

If your job is marketing or promoting your company, your products, or your services, then you’ll find lots of useful stuff in this book.

If you’re a general business book reader, you’ll probably enjoy the book, too. One of the things that I enjoyed most about Competing Against Luck was the number of stories and examples that I never read about anywhere else. There are good descriptions of the stories of Southern New Hampshire University, OnStar, Depends, QuickBooks, and IKEA.
Profile Image for Adrian Gheorghe.
12 reviews9 followers
June 15, 2022
Clayton M. Christensen and its Jobs to be Done framework can be very useful for any startup.
Recommend it.

The core tenets of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory are summarized as follows:
- People buy products and services to get a “job” done.
- Jobs are functional, with emotional and social components.
- A Job-to-be-Done is stable over time.
- A Job-to-be-Done is solution agnostic.
- Success comes from making the “job” rather than the product or the customer, the unit of analysis.
- A deep understanding of the customer’s “job” makes marketing more effective and innovation far more predictable.
- People want products and services that will help them get a job done better and/or more cheaply
- People seek out products and services that enable them to get the entire job done on a single platform
- Customer needs, when tied to the job-to-be-done, make innovation predictable
Profile Image for Maciek Wiktorowski.
22 reviews1 follower
April 3, 2018
If you are looking for a book that might inspire you for thinking differently about your products or services, this is a book for you. It explains the Jobs to be Done Theory (JTBD Theory), that learns us how to think about the products/services not from a perspective of the product/service itself, but from the perspective of the job that the customer is trying to accomplish with using the product/service.

For decades managers were taught to think about target groups, thinking about the customers en masse. Christensen's approach forces to zoom in and take into account the context of each customer. In some cases, a single customer can use the same product/service to accomplish different jobs. Once you understand the full context of the customer you can address product/service itself, but also the processes around.

The book is full of examples from different industries: restaurants, retail, education, software, automotive - everyone should get an inspiration. Each chapter ends with questions that you can ask to review your own product strategy.
Profile Image for Pablo Mejia.
17 reviews1 follower
March 21, 2023
Un libro muy interesante alrededor de la pregunta: ¿por qué los clientes contratan a una empresa?. El experimentado autor en innovación disruptiva explica que la respuesta trasciende el producto o las funcionalidades, la experiencia de clientes o la excelencia operacional.

Se propone un método para hacer mejores preguntas para encontrar la respuesta al problema/progreso que los clientes le pagan por resolver a una organización. El beneficio de hacerlo no es solo ganar una ventaja competitiva, sino alinear los intereses del equipo para resolver dilemas diarios de una forma ágil y enfocada.
Profile Image for Blake.
63 reviews4 followers
November 22, 2021
The definitive guide to Jobs Theory. Can’t really think who I wouldn’t recommend this to (not just for PMs).

It provides a strong explanation, with good examples, and clear guidance on how to apply it and where the limitations are. It’s a powerful way to think about what types of innovation will actually be valued by customers and lead to strong products.
Profile Image for Ralf Kruse.
78 reviews9 followers
July 10, 2018
The book gave me a lot of insights on what job stories are about. Really like on how the author takes us on the journey to see on how this concept can be applies and make da difference.
Found the book highly inspiring.
So far the best book I read on this topic.
Profile Image for Lukas Vermeer.
302 reviews57 followers
April 15, 2019
Although Jobs To Be Done seems like a useful conceptual framework to shape customer centric thinking, I am missing validation; both of the framework construct described, and as a crucial part of the application of the framework itself. How will we know we have found the right Job?
Displaying 1 - 30 of 423 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.