Scott Anthony on Customer Centricity in times of Covid-19


Customer centricity in a time of dislocation: how Clayton Christensen’s “jobs-to-be-done” theory can help during and after the Covid-19 crisis

An interview with Scott Anthony, Senior Partner at Innosight

While we are all navigating the biggest health and economic crisis of the modern era, predicting which human behaviors will stay and which will go away, how long will changes last, and, in essence, how will the “new normal” look becomes a big question that both business and academic leaders are trying to figure out. Deep and close observation, measurement and tracking of behaviors and attitudes, benchmarking across the different stages in different countries, learning from similar (?!) past situations are all approaches that are being used today to predict what the future will be. In doing that one can also look at what can we learn from revisiting the great academic contributions to the business world which underpin the concept of customer & consumer centricity. One of them, and one we at the IE Center for CCentricity have extensively leveraged and promoted, is Clayton Christensen’s “job to be done” theory.

To get deeper in the concept of “jobs to be done” we have reached out to Scott Anthony, one of the global leaders with the strongest experience in applying the concept to solve business problems. Scott is Senior Partner at Innosight, the management consulting firm specializing in growth strategy founded in 2000 by Clayton Christensen and Mark Johnson. In 2019, Scott was recognized as the #9 most influential management thinker by Thinkers50, a biannual ranking of global business thinkers. Scott is one of Harvard Business Review’s most prolific contributors and is the co-author of the new article “Breaking Down the Barriers to Innovation,” as well as other HBR articles such as “Unite Your Senior Team” as well as dozens of digital articles for the magazine. Scott is based in the firm’s Singapore offices since 2010, he has led Innosight’s expansion into the Asia-Pacific region as well as its venture capital activities (InnosightVentures).
We have talked to him recently about how the jobs to be done theory and its relevancy in the world we are living in.

Q: Hi Scott, what is the jobs-to-be-done theory and how have you been applying it to drive growth in organisations?

A: The basic idea is that customers don’t buy products and services, they hire them to get jobs done in their life. As Peter Drucker once said “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling him … Nobody pays for a ‘product.’ What is paid for is satisfaction.” We define a job as the progress a customer is seeking in a particular circumstance. Understanding it can help you to innovate your current offering set so it gets current customers’ jobs done better as well as to spot new opportunities for innovation and growth.

Q: How the concept of jobs to be done can be leveraged by organisations in their journey to be customer/consumer-centric?

A: Simply put, focusing on the job makes customer-centricity actionable. After all, the reason you want to embrace customer-centricity is to understand the customer well enough that you can spot innovation opportunities.
Demographic data about customers correlates with their behavior, but you are none the wiser about what causes it. We specifically suggest companies follow four behaviors:

  1.  Spend significant time with customers (stakeholders, suppliers, etc) to understand their real jobs to be done.
  2. Spend that time focused on customer problems and how they choose between solutions.
  3. Use tools like customer profiles and customer journey maps to capture insight.
  4.  Ensure the insight flows into the development of solutions so they are rooted in real needs and problems.
Q: How is the concept relevant in the Covid-19 world we are living today? How can this concept help navigating these uncertain times?

A: First, it can be a great tool to look for “everyday” opportunities that helps all of us cope with the realities of today’s situation. All of a sudden we have new challenges in life. How will we handle 10 straight hours of Zoom calls? How can we keep children occupied? How do we socialize in an era of social distancing? Thinking about the real job you are trying to get done can highlight non-obvious ways to creatively address these problems. Second, of course, we can use the concept externally to spot opportunities to better connect with customers. As always, crises create opportunities for those who think and act in the right way!

Q: And how to build on jobs to be done for the recovery phase?

A: Our belief is that the fundamental things people are trying to get done actually change relatively slowly. Put another way, a customer’s job to be done is relatively constant. However, looking at previous “big events” suggests that they cause two types of dislocations. First, they can force customers to try something they otherwise wouldn’t have and discover it actually gets the job done better. Perhaps, for example, people will learn many face-to-face meetings can be done virtually. Second, systems and structures put in place after putting new barriers that reshuffle people’s priorities. Telemedicine, for example, might continue to boom as governments create persistent rules to minimize the spread of diseases in hospitals.

Scott will be leading the IE Center for C-Centricity Discussion Forum on April 29, where the Center’s members will be able to hear more about this topic and have an open discussion about how better understanding the jobs they are trying to solve in this new world can help them manage this crisis.