Thinking again about market-creating innovations (1)

If you’re working in a for- or not-for-profit organisation working for change – trying to make something happen that you think should be happening, or trying to stop something from happening that you wish didn’t – then in a sense you’re trying to create a working market.

You want people to have access to clean water. Or to education. Or to nutrition, health and healthcare. To work. To better housing. To resources that that might change their lives for the better or change their minds about something.

You want them to go from “non-consumption” of these goods to consuming them – ideally on a sustainable basis. One helpful exercise is to think of these goods as products existing in a market and asking why they’re not being consumed.

Efosa Ojomo, Clayton Christensen and Karen Dillon identify four key barriers:

  1. Money – people want the good, but can’t afford it;
  2. Access – the good is simply not available to people where they are i.e. high quality healthcare;
  3. Time – people might be able to access the good and afford its financial cost, but can’t afford the time it takes;
  4. Skill – people are not able to use the product, even if they can access it and have the time and money to do so.
  5. Government – the government is in some way restricting access to the good.

These are really helpful lenses for thinking about the problem, but I think they’re missing a few elements – for example, they don’t explain why people might not access a good that is available to them for free, requiring time and skill that they could comfortably afford. For this reason, I’d add a few more, grouping them all together as elements of accessibility. People may not access a good because there is…

  1. An awareness problem – people may not even know that the good exists or is possible;
  2. A desire or will problem – people are aware of the good, but don’t want it (perhaps because they don’t think it’s a good at all, or don’t think it’s good enough to be worth the cost, or don’t think that people like them can have it);
  3. A distribution problem – the good simply isn’t available so people can’t get hold of it. This could be because there doesn’t appear to be a market (so no one is trying to sell), because of infrastructure and logistical hurdles that need to be overcome, because of legal (government) or other (social? criminal?) restrictions, or simply (in the short term) because the good is scarce and there isn’t enough of it to go around;
  4. A cost problem – the good costs too much either in terms of money, time or effort. People would access it if they could afford all of these costs.
  5. A skill problem – people are unable to consume the good because they lack the skills or knowledge they would need to do so.

[What have I missed? Is there a better way to structure these ideas?]

We can use these inter-related problems to generate questions about our work… more tomorrow in part 2.

See also:

Efosa Ojomo on market-creating innovation and overcoming barriers to consumption (1)
Clayton Christensen: Jobs to be done (1)
Resources: Clayton Christensen on disruptive innovation
Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon on integrating inputs

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