Competing Against Luck

I’ve read several of Christensen’s books over the years but Competing Against Luck has resonated with me the most. A company typically tries to discern product needs by segmenting its customer base and creating personas. While these approaches can be useful, Christensen suggests that to fulfill a customer need, one must understand the customer’s “Job to be Done” (JTBD).

We’ve all heard the statement that the customer doesn’t want to buy a drill bit, rather she wants to drill a hole. Most likely, Christensen built upon the “Jobs as Activities” ideology from Anthony Ulwick. In the simplest terms, I see the JTBD concept as encompassing more than activities, it also has elements of aspiration and progress.

I appreciate that Competing Against Luck and its JTBD framework is simple and straightforward. Anyone from the executive to the frontline worker can begin using the JTBD approach immediately, without lengthy training or certification. Most importantly, the JTBD concept gets to the heart of truly understanding what the customer wants and not what we think she wants.

One final note. I had the privilege of participating in a small group forum with Professor Christensen several years ago. In addition to being extremely intelligent, I found him to be humble, thoughtful, open and intentional. He spoke to us not only of innovation and JTBD, he also spoke to us about the importance of establishing personal values early in your life and stay committed to them. Christensen gave us insight into the values he chose – with God and Family being the top two. He told several stories where he was placed in a position that would violate his commitment to of these and he always made the decision to stay true to his values. He emphasized the importance of not allowing work to become the center of our lives and to beware of the dangers of avarice.

At the time of our conversation with Christensen, he had already been diagnosed with diabetes, then cancer and had a stroke. He knew his health could deteriorate suddenly and that the next time he might lose the battle, yet he chose to continue to teach and touch the lives of his students and others. I am honored to have had the opportunity to learn from such a remarkable human being.