The right tool for the job

By: Steve Little, Principal with The Disruption Lab

We’ve all been there…something needs to be fixed, you go to your tool box, and you don’t have the right tool for the job. What do you do? You either go buy or borrow the right tool, or you just make do. A couple of articles I ran across recently illustrate the point of just making do: 6 Household Substitutes for a Phillips Head Screwdriver and What Are Some of the Weird Uses of a Screwdriver?

Are your customers just making do with your products and services? They won’t continue to do so indefinitely.

Clay Christensen introduced us to the Jobs to be Done theory of innovation. [To hear Clay Christensen explain the theory, visit this December 8, 2016 HBR article entitled The “Jobs to be Done” Theory of Innovation.]

What jobs are customers hiring your products and services to do? Whether you own a lawn maintenance service or build jet engines, this is a fundamentally important question to answer.

The first phase of The Disruption Lab’s innovation process seeks to answer this and other questions.

We iterate through two sets of exploration before ideating possible solutions. Iteration continues until we have a clear definition of the opportunity. The Disruption Lab’s Discover phase is similar to the Emphasize and Define stages of Design Thinking. While activities and approaches are similar, The Disruption Lab augments the process using the Jobs to be Done framework introduced by Clay Christensen.

Opportunity, focus of exploration:

  • Capture ideas from customers, competitors, employees, start-ups
  • Identify products or services that are complex, difficult to access, and expensive
  • Assess market potential
  • Validate strategic alignment

Job, focus of exploration:

  • Identify the circumstances and customer emotions present when purchase decisions are made, including when the decision is “not to buy”
  • Evaluate how circumstances and customer emotions change after purchase (were expectations met)
  • What jobs are customers hiring a product or service to do (no superficial answers here…dig deep)
  • What are the perceived and real needs of customers; what needs currently remain unmet after purchase

The Value Proposition Canvas is a good tool for clearly defining the opportunity.   out of the Discover phase with a clear definition of opportunity, we progress to the Design phase. We will introduce you to our Design phase in January. We can’t make the right tool until we know the job to be done. So, we leave you with the questions:

What jobs are your customers hiring your products and services to do?

Are your customers just “making do” with your current products and services?

Steve is a Principal of The Disruption Lab. Prior to joining The Disruption Lab, Steve served as the Principal Consultant for the Strategic Solutions Group at InfoWorks, a regional business and technology consulting firm based in Nashville, TN. While his consulting engagements at InfoWorks spanned several industries, the majority of his work was in healthcare.​

Much of Steve’s career has been in executive leadership roles at Ingram Content Group (formerly Ingram Book Group). Over his 15 years with Ingram, Steve was part of a high performance executive team that drove significant growth in revenue and profits through innovative customer partnerships and services. Steve’s leadership was characterized by adeptly leveraging technology and building responsive organizations through organizational design and development. Steve’s business experience ranges from technical responsibilities such as operations research, business analysis, and systems development to senior management responsibilities as CEO, Chairman, and board director.​​

You can connect with or ask Steve a question through The Disruption Lab community at


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