Which is better needs analysis or focusing on the Jobs to be done? A five year old decides.


After a short twitter conversation, I was flicking through Tony Ulwick’s “what customer wants” the other day and was reminded of one of a number of reasons why I decided to focus my business on utilising this framework.  In a word it can be summed up by one word:


Not pushing in terms of “push marketing” or the drug pushing but simply telling my son (the five year old in the title) not to push.

He is very literal so he naturally disregarded what I had said – you cannot get through life without pushing, pushing a swing etc. doors even invite you to push them.  I simply had not given him enough data to act on.

Even “Don’t push Louie” does not help – it merely adds to the confusion. Is he allowed to push other children? What happens when children are playing? He has little to no empathy with other children so does not know when it would be acceptable or not. You can give him a rule not to push smaller kids but this does not seem to work either.

But “do not push” as a statement suffers in the same way as many needs statements do – they are simply not actionable because the statement has not been clarified.  You need to understand the context and why my five year old pushed.

I will not go into it in too much detail (there are a dozen or so jobs he wants done) but one of the reasons why he did this was to make friends – he went up to other children (too close as it happens because he does not understand personal space), they then pushed him and he responded in kind thinking this was how you began to play.

He now goes up to children and asks them to play – if they say they do not want to play he may not understand but he does not push.

A key aspect of marketing and innovation is changing behaviours but you have to give marketing and operations the data that they can act on.  The actual methodology did not matter – this came from observation by my wife, the school and myself but the focus on the outcome and job that needs to be done can be done through telephone interviews, focus groups or even online surveys.

The methodology does not matter, the answers do.  My son now loves going to the park and asking people to play with him and we do not dread it.

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