Figuring out how to win in established markets can be difficult enough. As innovative companies begin to compete asymmetrically—by winning along previously unconsidered dimensions of performance—the very definition of a win can change, making the task that much harder.
Let’s look closely at the Tesla Model S, named the Best Overall car for 2014 and 2015 by Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports chooses its top car picks based on three criteria: performance, reliability, and safety. Performance is further broken down into traditional characteristics around handling, capacity, and comfort, while reliability and safety are based on user-reported problems and crash test results, respectively. In some ways, traditional success criteria can be cross-applied for the Model S. Safety ratings, for example, are still an important measure of success. However, when the P85D version of the Model S broke the Consumer Reports rating system—scoring 103 points out of a possible 100—it became clear that traditional success criteria are insufficient for judging the Model S.
To understand how Tesla is redefining the very notion of a perfect car, we need to think about what the Model S actually is, using Jobs language. The Model S is an electric vehicle, which makes it much more than simply a transportation choice. The new technology expands the range of jobs that people can satisfy to include a number that are not transportation related. Driving an electric car, for example, not only gets you where you want to go but also allows you to act on environmental concerns. The addition of this new dimension, however, means that the car will be assessed across a range of standards—some familiar (safety, comfort, reliability) and some completely new (refueling/recharging times, ability to travel long distances). The Model S wins because it does an exceptionally good job satisfying both the traditional and newly relevant jobs that customers buying an electric car want to satisfy.
Beyond just satisfying jobs, however, it’s important to understand how customers want to satisfy those jobs. More is not always better. Satisfying customers’ jobs means knowing what they want more of, what they want less of, and where they are looking to strike a balance.
As a refresher for some and context for others, many new product failures can be avoided simply by understanding what jobs customers want to get done. Rather than leaping to foist a solution on the market, companies need to step back, listen to and observe real and potential customers (including how they react to early prototypes), and then hone in on strategic opportunity areas that show promise for growth.
To help get you started, we put together a list of common strategies for tying success criteria back to key Jobs principles.