Baseball Awards and the Job To Be Done

The thing I love about reading Clayton Christensen is that he provides new ways of looking at common problems, which open up a whole different set of solutions for you.

For instance, watch this video as he explains his concept of “Jobs to be Done”:

“If you understand the job, how to improve the product becomes just obvious.”

I love that phrase: “hiring a milkshake”. When you think of a milkshake as a product, then you analyze it the way you analyze products: it’s properties (thickness, taste, size, price, etc.), and the demographics of the purchasers of that product (rich, poor, male, female, young, old, etc.)

But if you look at it in terms of a “job to be done”, that one product may actually turn out to be two or more separate products. There’s the milkshake job for the morning commuter, and there’s also the milkshake job for the parent buying it for their kid. These separate products may have separate sets of properties and demographics.

* * *

Last month, I wrote about the MVP Award, in a post called Awards are Celebrations, Not Measurements. And Vice Versa. I think I had a good point there, but perhaps applying Christensen’s “Jobs to be Done” frame would make that argument clearer. So let’s do that:

What is the job that we hire the Most Valuable Player Award to do?

I suspect that the reason there seems to be such vehement disagreement about the AL MVP this year is that it’s actually like the milkshake: we think of it as one single product, but in fact it’s actually two. The morning commuters need the MVP to function like a measurement: that’s what they want to hire the job to do. The evening parents want to hire the MVP award to tell the best story, to celebrate the player who best matches our platonic or cultural ideal of what the best player should accomplish.

Sometimes a single item on the menu can successfully accomplish two jobs. But sometimes they can’t. If we’re smart at marketing, we’ll figure out how to get each set of customers the product that they actually want.

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