When coffee and kale compete

Every person wants progress, and when we design or market products and services we should focus on the progress we are enabling customers to make.

This is the foundation of Jobs To Be Done (JTBD).

With this approach, two things happen.

First, value is no longer seen as a transaction. It does not run out the moment a purchase is done or a service is delivered. Progress extends over time. The best way for a company to serve their customers is to understand the system of progress they are in – a good example being Weber, that does not stop at producing high-quality grills, and completes the offer with tools and resources to make the customer the grill master they want to be.

Design your product to deliver customers an ongoing feeling of progress – Alan Klement

Second, competition is no longer restricted to products or services that have a similar functionality or physical appearance. Anything that helps the customer achieve the progress they have envisioned (or might envision) for themselves is competition.

A Job To Be Done is the process a consumer goes through whenever she aims to transform her existing life-situation into a preferred one, but cannot because there are constraints that stop her

Alan Klement, When Coffee and Kale Compete
When Coffee and Kale Compete – Book Cover


An extraordinary performer will add little to a toxic environment – an environment that puts results above people, that promotes performance at all costs, that prioritizes external over internal input, that assumes lower ranked people are less important than those higher up.

So before you get to hiring (and firing, and hiring again, and firing again), make sure your internal system is working as you intend it to work. Make sure you have rewards that promote the behaviour you wish to promote. Make sure you have rules in place, or even better norms, that will guide people to speak up, to share ideas, to flag issues, and give them the freedom to follow up.

Shaping systems is a long-term effort that requires high levels of awareness, and not many organisations want to committ to that.

It’s a mistake.

Back on your feet

Fears build up within us. The reality is rarely as bad as we imagine it to be.

What is the worst thing that could happen? is always a very powerful question. We don’t need most of the things we want, and we don’t want most of the things we have.

Look your anxiety in the eyes and ask: What if I let it go? What if what I fear will materialize? What if the worst case scenario is what I will wake up to tomorrow?

I promise, more often then not, you will still be you.

And then you’ll have all the resources to get back on your feet.

Someone else

There is always someone else.

No matter how skilled you are, no matter how wonderful your product is, no matter how supposedly unique your culture is. There is someone else out there offering the exact same thing, covering the exact same spot, addressing the exact same problem.

And you have two things to do to mitigate this problem.

First, understand who someone else is – and by the way, this is a decision of those you are serving.

Second, be as specific as possible in figuring out and expressing what you are.

The alternative is most of B2B marketing nowadays: companies with fantastic products and services playing in broad and fuzzy markets to increase their customers’ productivity. All the same type of better, faster, cheaper.