Not every industry is ripe for disruption. And that’s ok.

The average age of a company on the S&P 500 is plummeting!
Disrupt or be disrupted!
You need to pursue a Blue Ocean Strategy at all costs!
If you’re not scared, you’re not paying attention!!


More than ever before, business decisions are being made out of fear. Not being bold means quietly accepting our fate, and so companies are frantically attempting to inspire innovation, some way to shake out of accepting a death march to obscurity.

Let’s be real. Not every industry is ripe for disruption, and not every company CAN be a disruptor. So how do you determine if disruption is the right strategy for you — and if not, what other choices do you have?

Thankfully, the folks over at Strategyn have made public their Jobs To Be Done Growth Strategy Matrix, one of the tools they’ve developed internally to help companies design winning innovations for over 20 years. The Growth Strategy Matrix identifies strategies to pursue that align with a company’s goal in the market.

First off, you should know your strategy isn’t yours alone to make: you need to consider the overall industry dynamics, including competition and customer needs, and how you want your product to appear in the market. There are two facets to consider: cost and quality. This leads to a 2×2 matrix:

From Jobs-to-be-Done: Theory to Practice. (Anthony Ulwick of Strategyn)

Obviously, a better and less expensive product will appeal to all customers. But there are other options to consider: a better and more expensive product can help in capturing more value from a smaller group of customers, and a worse and less-expensive product can open the market to non-consumers or those who are being over-served by existing products in the market.

Now the question shifts:  “Who are the customers we want to attract/serve with this product?”

What makes sense given the other forces affecting the industry?

One important point that Ulwick raises in his book Jobs To Be Done: Theory to Practice is that this is product, not corporate, strategy. This allows a company to create a portfolio of products that speak to the needs and values of different customer segments, to capture even greater market share.

From Jobs-to-be-Done: Theory to Practice. (Anthony Ulwick of Strategyn)

Often, companies are attracted to the promise of Blue Ocean Strategy (also called Disruptive Strategy): identify a segment of non-consumers and create a product that matches their needs. This results in increasing the overall market, or creating a new one.

But it’s overly simplistic to assume you can just design a product that’ll convert non-consumers without having a clear sense of why their needs are not currently being met. This is where the Jobs To Be Done Needs Framework comes in.

Jobs-to-be-Done Theory provides a framework for (i) categorizing, defining, capturing, and organizing all your customer’s needs, and (ii) tying customer defined performance metrics (in the form of desired outcome statements) to the Job-to-be-done.

The Jobs-to-be-Done Growth Strategy Matrix can be applied once you have a clear understanding of the jobs the customer is trying to get done, how satisfied he is with his current solution, and how important it is to get the job done.


Now back to the original title of this post. Not every industry is ripe for disruption.

A company can’t simply declare it wants to release a disruptive innovation (or even a differentiated product) without knowing that there are customers who are receptive to this.

Strategyn has an entire methodology (Outcome-based Segmentation™) they have developed to understand where in this matrix a company’s target customers can be found. They can then employ the appropriate strategy.

This sounds so obvious, doesn’t it?

  1. Determine your target customer
  2. Understand how their needs are currently being met and how satisfied they are with the solutions they have
  3. Adopt the strategy that helps you succeed in the market.

However, there’s a lot that goes into this entire process. In Ulwick’s book, he outlines the 84 step process that their practitioners follow when working with clients. 84 steps! That’s what helps to put this theory into practice.


What appeals to me most about this approach is its breadth of application. Too often books about innovation jump to the exciting, mystical promise of disruption. Jobs-to-be-Done: Theory to Practice takes a step back, to focus first on customer needs to identify possible strategies, and then how to apply them.


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