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Innovation’s Foundation

At the core of every business’s strategy is uncovering the best ways to meet and anticipate their customer or shopper jobs or capabilities and integrate their products and services into that future vision.  Of course, to develop the strategy requires being able to look into the future and identify what current requirements will still be necessary in the foreseeable future, and what new requirements will be needed to accommodate future customer jobs.  The process of migrating from current products and services designed to meet today’s customer needs to a future set of requirements is referred to as innovation.

What is a Job?

In order to understand the concept, the first step is to define what is a “job.”  A job in this context refers to the capability that the customer strives to complete a task through the use of products and services.  Just like people apply for work and are hired on the basis of the fit between their capabilities and the requirement of the position; certain products and services are hired to allow the customer to achieve an outcome.

Innovation quadrant explains the path products and services take to be hired.


Currently, customers may be starting in the lower left quadrant.  They operate in a routinized or mechanized way to repeat past purchases with little thought to improving or changing.  Their decison considerations are based on a “search” of known products and services with little exploration beyond that which is in their awareness.
Suppliers will often try to influence the decision-making of the customer by providing price incentives, promotions, advertising, etc.  Those efforts are not innovative in that they do not provide additional capabilities to the customer, but may be effective in shifting market share levels between competitors.  This is captured in the upper left quadrant. 
In some situations, the market’s options of products may lag behind the identified “jobs” that customers need to complate.  In those instances, there is no progress help available and customers seek other options (not always certain what will provide the necessary capabilities, so they test, trial, explore, etc.). In response to their dissatisfaction with the existing options and capabilities, customers will generate their own homemade solutions that they cobble together in response to the job to be completed.
For true progress to be made, the innovation must cross the Progress Horizon Barrier (seen in red on the vertical axis), and incorporate the “technology” of innovaton barrier (seen in red on the horizontal axis).  In the upper right-hand quadrant, the merchant or store is now a collaborative partner with the customer in helping them assess, analyze, compare and contrast options available to them to more competently and confidently complete their jobs with the new product/service solution set (whether that be new products, an explanation of how existing products can be applied to a job in a new or different way, the mixing of different product options together into a new capability or offering to meet a job’s requirement(s).
The store or merchant has a significant role to play in accomplishing this through a more refined merchandising approach, selling skill enhancement, improvement in marketing activities, etc.  By looking at the quadrant and identifying what is needed to better align with the customer to suit their new job requirement – and then providing it, the business strategy of innovation can be better matched to future market needs.
David Zahn