What Would Steve Do?

Updated: Jul 8, 2020


If you're in innovation, product development, product management, product design, or marketing, you may have heard of a guy by the name of Steven Paul Jobs.

In fact, you may or may not have a poster of him on your office wall, and ask yourself a couple times a month, "What would Steve do?" As well you should, because regardless of his widely-known eccentricities, the guy had something everyone in innovation management wants (besides a $10-billion net worth):

He was a natural innovator. He lived by Wayne Gretzky's mantra of skating to where the puck is going to be. Although that's much easier said than done for most of us, Steve pulled it off repeatedly.

If your goal is to innovate like Steve did, you can do better than just re-reading his biography for the 7th time. You can learn to think like he did, to see the world as he saw it, and to understand your customers' needs on a deep, detailed, almost psychic level like he did.

You see, Steve's approach to innovation, as well as that of Edison, Ford and other natural innovators, was contrarian. They didn't rely on traditional market research, which asks customers what they want. Steve once said,

“Some people say give the customers what they want, but that's not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they're going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, 'If I'd ask customers what they wanted, they would've told me a faster horse.' People don't know what they want until you show it to them."

Taking this statement at face value makes Jobs and Ford seem like superhuman telepathic innovation geniuses. Actually, what I believe they both meant by this is that customers don't know what they want in a product or service design. They're not experts in solutions. But they are absolutely experts in the job they're trying to get done.

Jobs and Ford both no doubt intuitively knew this as well, although they didn't talk about it much. The reason they both were able to come up with such disruptive and successful innovations (e.g., the iPhone and the automobile, respectively) is that they focused on the Job-To-Be-Done (JTBD) in their innovation efforts.

Ford didn't bother asking customers to help him design a better carriage, and Jobs didn't ask customers how to build a better phone. Asking questions like that only results in "faster horses" answers, because customers will naturally think in context of the current solutions available to them. These innovation greats both thought instead about the jobs their (potential) customers were trying to get done when using the current solutions.

Ford's potential customers were trying to move people and things from Point A to Point B. In Jobs' case, customers were trying to maintain productivity while on the go. And although they both actively avoided asking customers "what they wanted," you can bet they both meticulously gathered massive intelligence about these jobs people were trying to do.

This is phenomenal news for anyone aspiring to invent the next iPhone or automobile, because Jobs and Ford were NOT superhuman telepathic innovation geniuses, and you don't have to be, either.

Great innovation doesn't require telepathic, creative, or any other type of genius. All you have to do to be a great innovator is focus like a laser beam on the right thing (The Job-To-Be-Done) and follow a structured process (like Lean Six Sigma) in understanding it.

Jobs-To-Be-Done provides the focus. Lean Six Sigma provides the process. It's called Engineerovation™, and I can help you do it. Reach out now to learn how.

Anyone can innovate like Steve, without another re-read of his biography.

Black turtleneck optional.

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