Clayton Christensen’s Competing Against Luck – Book Review

In his latest book Prof. Clayton Christensen asks; why do products fall short? Christensen asserts that this occurs when companies place too much focus on a product’s features, rather than what the customer wants the product to do.

In this article I look at Prof. Christensen’s latest book, co-authored with Taddy Hall, Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice.

Christensen once again brings up a fresh perspective that is set to give a significant impact on the way new product innovation & services are developed.

The book explores Christensen’s idea that customers do not buy products, rather they hire them to achieve key tasks or to “do jobs”.  It is a simple, but powerful, insight at the core of the book’s theory:  consumers don’t buy products or services; they pull them into their lives to make progress. In other words, companies need to understand more than just their competitors. They need to determine the reason or job that consumers hire a product for, which often varies between consumers.

Explaining, Christensen argued: “What do consumers care most about in that moment of trying to make progress?” When a smoker takes a cigarette break at work, the authors suggest that he is “hiring cigarettes for the emotional benefit of calming him down, relaxing him” and may also look forward to hanging out with like-minded friends. Any cigarette brand will do this job, but so will Facebook

“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.”

Christensen’s idea is one that marketers and innovation professionals in leading FMCGs and agencies have started to practice, resulting with more impactful innovation that truly solves a problem for consumers. So next time you think of developing a new product or even have a start-up idea for a product or service, think deeply upfront  why would consumers “hire” your product idea If you don’t have an answer to that question you are better off dropping that idea and heading back to the drawing board.