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You realize your sink is clogged. What do you do next? For most of us, our next step is to find a plumber to solve the problem. There is a deliberate action we take based on a challenge or need that we have in our daily lives. What we often don’t realize is that we’re doing the same with digital products.

Without conscious intention, we tend to select, or “hire,” digital products and services for reasons we never think about. We don’t go through an extensive vetting process as we do when hiring a person, and yet most of us rely on these apps and digital functions more frequently than we do human beings these days.

How long did you spend before you selected your most recent app or website subscription? A few minutes? It’s easy to dismiss the importance of digital products when they serve a small function, like repaying a friend back after dinner or drinks. But when you consider how much of your life you’re outsourcing to the digital space, it starts to add up.

When we think about digital products and services collectively, we never pause to ask ourselves why we’re “hiring” them to adapt to our daily needs. We hire Uber to be the friendly neighbor that gives us a lift to the airport. We hire Venmo to be our wallet when we need to pay our friend back for the pizza tab from the night before. We hire Spotify to be our personal DJ that helps us keep up to date on the latest releases from our favorite artists.

Imagine the possibilities if we all took a little more time in making decisions about digital products and services.

What would happen if we acted with more intention when “hiring” an app?

A background in “hiring” products and services

Clay Christensen, currently a Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School and a known expert in innovation, introduced a concept called Jobs To Be Done in the Harvard Business Review titled The Cause and the Cure of Marketing Malpractice (2005):

“If a [businessperson] can understand the job, design a product and associated experiences in purchase and use to do that job, and deliver it in a way that reinforces its intended use, then when customers find themselves needing to get that job done they will hire that product.”

“The marketer’s task is to understand what jobs periodically arise in customers’ lives for which they might hire products the company could make.”

When people need to get “the job done,” they hire a product or service to do it for them. This helps them improve their lives in ways they wouldn’t have otherwise (without those products and services).

I’ve covered the individual level of the “hiring” process for digital products. What if we think about this from a business perspective? What happens if you think through how users might “hire” your digital product prior to, or during, the development phase? Would it change how you solve for their needs? Are you solving those needs, and therefore helping them “get the job done?”

Real World Outcomes

We recently worked with a fintech company that solved a pain point within a highly specialized market. Our team set our sights on exploring opportunities where our client’s technology could be applied outside of the industry they’re currently serving, thus opening up new revenue streams. 

How might we potentially create an opportunity where a group of users could hire our client’s product to solve their challenges?

As we explored potential users within multiple industries, we continued to ask ourselves how users could potentially hire our client’s technology. Would it be valuable for those users to hire this product to achieve their goals? Asking this question allowed us to gauge whether the industry was worth further exploration.

If you think about how your users hire you to accomplish their goals, it allows you to also think about what kinds of goals your users need to accomplish. 

Having continual clarity on where your solution provides value for the people using it is a grounding way of creating empathy-forward problem solving. This method of problem solving creates real world learning and, ultimately, creates scalable solutions.

How will you apply this design thinking framework into your own product or service? If you’re implementing a “jobs to be done” mentality within your own innovation practice, we’d love to hear how this approach has helped you uncover a new lens for ideation.

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Christine is a Senior Design Strategist at 352, where she combines her creative problem solving skills with her passion for creating viable, people, centered solutions.