Good conferences create a range of stages for members of the cohort to try things out on. Workshops, seminars and meetings happening alongside the keynote and plenary sessions create value for presenters (a chance to meet interested people and try out material) and for the cohort (a testbed for discovering new ideas, finding new contributors and new speakers and leaders).
If you’re organising a conference, it’s worth being deliberate about making an on-ramp of smaller opportunities and chances for attendees to contribute.*
*The focus needs to be on contribution – opportunities for members of the cohort to share something valuable with peers, rather than to get on their own private soapbox or achieve five minutes of fame.
This is true whether we’re working for pay or we’re parenting, whether we’re working on something that’s very obviously for ourselves or giving up time, energy and money to serve others.
Even at our best (most generous, most sacrificial) – perhaps especially at our best – we’re working for ourselves. We give up immediate and obvious rewards or pleasures (for ourselves) for the deeper reward (still for ourselves) of doing something for other people.
And this is fine, and by being honest about it we immediately remove a layer of anxiety about our motivations by answering the question “Am I actually just doing this for myself?” with a straight answer: “Yes.”
This leads us to a far more useful set of questions: “What am I hoping to get?”; “Who else is this for?”; “What am I hoping to give?” and “Where am I focusing my attention?”
If you hire a product to get a job done and it doesn’t do the job well, then you have to take it back, or throw it away, or give it away, or repair it, and go out and find something that will do the job well. And if that doesn’t do well then you have to test it, and talk to your friends…
When you find yourself buying a product and find that it doesn’t do the job well, it is very costly to find something that does it well. And that’s the reason why it can be so profitable if you organise around a job to be done: because customers will be delighted to pay a premium price for your product because the alternative – of something that doesn’t do the job well – is very costly.
Here’s a great insight from Clayton Christensen: people don’t buy a product or service because of abstract needs, but rather when they have a specific job to do.
So people don’t use public transport, or cars, or taxis because they need transportation in general, but when they need to go and do something specific at a specific time.
All people need to be healthy, but they only consume medical services when they notice that they are sick, or hurt, and have the ‘job to do’ of getting better.
All people have an abstract need for education of one sort or another at all times, but they generally only seek out and pay (in some combination of money, time and effort) for books or teachers or schooling when they have a need or want for a specific thing.
You can watch Christensen’s famous (and funny) example of what people “hire” MacDonald’s milkshakes for in the video below.
Benefits of thinking about customer behaviour in this way include…
Better understanding of why people ‘buy’ what you offer – understanding the job to be done is for more helpful for improving your offering than general demographic information or market research into how you might improve your product because it’s more specific, focusing on the critical moments when people actually buy
More insight into who else might buy your product – instead of asking “who is similar to my customer?” you ask “Who has a similar job to do?” and “What other jobs does our product do well?”
Stability – Christensen points out that ‘jobs’ are far more stable than products and users. Julius Caesar, Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill and Steve Jobs, for example, all needed to get letters securely from A to B – but the services they made use of to get the job done were radically different.
Clayton Christensen’s The Innovators Dilemma is a business classic, providing a framework for understanding how technological or business model innovations (or more usually, both) allow new businesses to gain a foothold in markets or to create new ones.
It’s been hugely influential – and has come in for its share of criticism.
This post contains links to a range of resources for getting up to speed with disruptive innovation, as well as some of Christensen’s other theories – particularly his ‘jobs to be done’ view of markets and product development, and modularity theory.
The most important thing to remember now a simple sentence: “It’s not for you.”
So you run an Indian restaurant on 6th Street in New York and you have a $24 spicy vindaloo, if you finish it you get it for free, it’s that spicy.
And someone comes to the restaurant and says, “I hate spicy food,” it’s really obvious what you should do, and it’s not take it off the menu.
It’s saying to that person “Vaselka, Ukrainian food, is two blocks away, nothing in the restaurant is spicy, here’s their phone number, thanks for stopping by.”
“What I sell is not for you.”
Being able to do that is hugely powerful.
So I look at the 100 most loved books ever written, all of them have more one-star reviews on Amazon than any book I’ve ever written – all of them. Because if you’re going to write To Kill A Mockingbird or Harry Potter a lot people are going to read it, and if a lot of people are going to read it, some of them are going to need to say, “It’s not for me.” And the way they do that is by writing a one-star review.
But Harper Lee shouldn’t have read her one-star reviews because it’s not going to make her a better writer tomorrow. All it says is “I don’t like spicy food.”
The starting point is to understand what capabilities you have that others will value, that you can use to create value for others.
And then to find the opportunities for those capabilities that will create the most opportunity for others and particularly those who will reward you for that value.
So the ideal for business is to maximise the value that you create for others, and your profit would come solely as compensation for that value you’re creating for others, and then to continually improve and add to those capabilities, and look for, based on that, what other opportunities are there for which you can create superior value.
So there are two components then: one is to become preferred partner for all your key constituencies. That starts with customers but includes employees, suppliers, communities and society as a whole.
And the second piece is to continually transform yourself. So our philosophy is if we in a business or you as an individual are working in an area, if you’re the best in the world, it’s not good enough. And particularly today, with rapid improvements in technologies within year or wo you’re going to be obselete if you just rest on your laurels. So you’ve got to be constantly thinking on how do I improve, how do I do things differently, what are the new opportunities.
If we’d just stayed with the crude oil gathering… we’d be out of business now. It’s by applying these principles of human flourishing to create these beneficial cycles focusing on how do I create value for all my constituencies – particularly those who will reward us for the value we create for them – is what has enabled us to do what we’ve done.
Crikey, it’s a very long photo of a postbox – read on for some thoughts about information architecture and the Royal Mail.
From a distance
Everyone knows what a postbox looks like – if you’re looking for one, they’re easy to find
Anyone who isn’t looking for a postbox can ignore the postbox at no cost to their time and attention
Most local people will remember where this one is even if they’ve never used it – so they know where to go when they do need it, or when others do. (Top British Question: “Excuse me, but do you know if there’s a postbox nearby?”)
When you want it, when you’ve found it, it’s got all the info in the right place, in the order you’ll ask for it:
Is this postbox in use? (answer implied)
When’s the next collection?
What’s the latest I can drop my letter today and have it collected? (If I’m happy with this, I can stop reading straight away).
If I’m in a hurry, where’s the nearest place I can go for an earlier collection?
If I’ve missed that too, what’s my last chance at a collection?
If I have other questions, where can I find answers or who can I call?*
*With apologies that I was in too much of a hurry to architect the second photo well enough to include everything!