THE LAST WORD
A few years ago, I heard Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard professor and leading authority of innovation management and disruptive innovation, give a presentation at a business conference in San Francisco. He asked us to consider “what a product is hired to do.” He used the example of a McDonald’s milkshake, which had unusually high sales during the morning rush hour in areas where drivers had long commutes. Most of us would assume that the line around the drive-thru window would be for the coffee hit, not the milkshake. So why the preference for a milkshake? Most of us assumed, referring back to his question, that the milkshake had been hired to quench a craving or fulfill a breakfast need for the consumer. But we were wrong. They discovered that commuters preferred the milkshake because it took a long time to drink. The thick liquid took a slow journey through the straw, giving them something to do during the long drive to work. It was their companion. Christensen concluded that the job the milkshake was hired to do was to keep the driver occupied during the long commute. The milkshake actually had a higher purpose.
It’s an important question to consider as we hock our products and services to the world. But think about it in a personal way. What job have we been hired to do? The assumptions for marketing, advertising, and sales are pretty broad. How do we define our true role and actualize our higher purpose, like the milkshake?
The assumption of our separate ...