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  • Writer's pictureSusan Tatum

How To Avoid Launching New Offerings That Nobody Wants To Buy

Updated: Aug 4, 2022

with Urko Wood, Owner - Reveal Growth Consultants

Businesses and companies are often afraid of innovation because they view it as risky. Urko Wood, Founder and Innovation Guide of Reveal Growth Consultants, Inc. shares an unusual approach to innovation called the “Jobs to Be Done.” The real problem is defining the problem.

Notes from the Show

Urko Wood has been the founder and innovation guide at Reveal Growth Consultants for 10 years. He helps businesses and companies of all sizes achieve growth through innovation. Today he shares an unusual approach to innovation called “Jobs to Be Done,” an approach pioneered by Tony Ulwick, CEO and Founder of Strategy where Urko worked for seven years.

In innovation today, there are a lot of miscommunication and problems that arise because we often believe customers can’t tell us what they want. Urko emphasizes the importance of understanding and defining the problem through the customer's perspective. Growth cannot be achieved without a properly defined problem.

When working on defining the customer’s problem, Urko focuses on a few major questions. What are they trying to get done? What are the criteria they are using to measure success? What are they struggling with? When you have a market that shares the same jobs to be done and you can help that group of people get that job done better, you can be confident you will be valued in a unique position in the marketplace.

A simplistic look at the “Jobs to Be Done” approach, revolves are these steps:

Redefine the market from the customer's point of view. Not what solution do you need but what are you trying to accomplish and having trouble with?

Find opportunities to solve the concerns that have been discovered. This can be done through qualitative interviews or interviews in unique groups based on the jobs to be done to create surveys.

Find a compelling unmet need. People don’t hire things they don’t have a need for.

“A customer’s need well-defined is half satisfied”. This is the most crucial part of growth and innovation for all businesses. You can find out more about Reveal Growth at their website and contact Urko Wood through his Linked In or email.

What’s Inside:

  • How to get crystal clear about what your clients want.

  • The danger of thinking you know what the problem is.

  • Growing a core market versus a new market opportunity.

  • A different way of defining a target market.

  • The “Jobs to Be Done” approach.

  • Where the opportunities for innovation and growth are found.

Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:37

Welcome back to the stop the noise Podcast. I'm excited today to have our special guests Urko Wood on the show Urko is a founder, he's an experience consultant. He's a business writer, who's built an really impressive career helping businesses of all kinds of sizes, find opportunities for growth, mainly through innovation. So he's he is what he's, for the last 10 years, he has been founder and innovation guide at Revealed Growth Consultants. And as I said, he's a contributing writer. He writes about innovation and growth strategy for the Business Journal. So I think we're really lucky to have him with us today. And we're going to talk about a unique approach to innovation, called jobs to be done. And we're going to dig into some common mistakes that companies make with innovation and how to get better at it. And I'm really looking forward to this. So Urko welcome to the show.

Urko Wood 1:30

Welcome. Thank you, Susan. Good to be here.

Susan Tatum 1:33

It's good to have you here. So you heard my introduction. And I'm curious, when you meet a new prospect, or you meet a new person, how do you explain what you do?

Urko Wood 1:41

And how on earth to do that. Believe me, it's been challenging, but here's what I say now you can tell me if it works. You know, how a lot of businesses launch new offerings that nobody wants to buy?

Susan Tatum 1:56


Urko Wood 1:57

we fix that problem. And we do that by helping them our clients turn innovation and growth into a repeatable business process.

Susan Tatum 2:07

So would it be would it be fair to say that a lot of companies are missing a really tremendous opportunity to grow because they view innovation as being too risky?

Urko Wood 2:20

Yes, I think that's a very astute observation and accurate and not something people are aware of. Because, you know, it's, there's a wonderful quote, I have to paraphrase it by a word, Professor Russell Ackoff, who said, essentially, if you have agreement about a problem, and disagreement about the solution, well, you have a problem. But if you have disagreement about the problem, and disagreement about the solution, you have a mess. And I think that's a pretty good description of what's going on in innovation today, because, unfortunately, there's been a lot of misbeliefs, probably the number one, the chief misbelief causing the most mischief. And I shouldn't say it too lightly, it's, it's, you know, billions of dollars are lost, because people think customers cannot tell us what they want. And that's not true. People can tell us what they want if we ask them what they want to accomplish, rather than asking them for product or service specifications. But that simple little confusion leads people to generating ideas, trying to test them and resonate, which isn't good science. It's trial and error, it's guessing. But if you can solve for the customer need first and get clarity about what exactly are they trying to get done? How do they measure success? And where do they struggle in their effort to get that job done, given their current product or service solution? That's critical information that drives it drives success again, and again and again. But see, most people don't know what kind of needs or customer inputs to obtain. So of course, we're gonna have confusion and a mess.

Susan Tatum 4:02

You know, what's really interesting about that, even outside of the realm of innovation is that we're trying to teach sales people to do exactly what you just said, to understand what the prospects challenges are. What the problem is, before they start talking about features and functionality. And if I'm hearing you correctly, you're saying, Hey, we forget all the great ideas. Let's understand what the issues are first.

Urko Wood 4:31

Exactly. You know, I've heard I've done some lectures, and I had one senior leader say, this is exactly what I learned in leadership training back when I was a junior executive. I said, What can you say some more? What are you referring to? Well, we were doing problem solving and leadership skills with this consultant. And she asked us a question, and a bunch of us started jumping into solutions. You said, whoa, whoa, we haven't defined the problem yet. And I said exactly. I mean, this actually is a big problem in all, communication. We presume we know what the other person is talking about. We presume we know what the word they used means to particularly with customers. And we're often wrong There's often a big disconnect and communication. And you can't afford if you're in charge of an innovation program or your company's growth, you have to differentiate through new and improved offerings. And you better get crystal clear about what your customers want, and not spend time and money speculate because there was a word confusion or some other kind of speculation.

Susan Tatum 5:33

So there's something there's a certain way to, there's the right questions to ask. And then there's a way to ask those questions, isn't there? So that you're not? You're you're not leading with your own interpretations and screwing up the results.

Urko Wood 5:48

Yeah, there's always going to be some social desirability bias. And that is, what you're referring to is people want to appease, they want to be approved of by the interviewer they want to be liked. But there, there are a lot of ways to minimize that we often do individual interviews, instead of group interviews, takes away the group dynamic, which is a big part of social desirability bias, you have to make a safe place, you have to make sure you really are a non judgmental person, and they can trust you with their confidential often, depending on what the nature of the product is, it can be often shame filled, you know, difficult emotions. But if you know how to do that I have a stake in it. I have a master's in Psych and a master's in marketing. So that's helped me some, but anybody that's empathetic, that is emotionally intelligent can create a safe place for that person. And it can be it can be like therapy, in that case. So you can do it in a way that's actually really exciting for them, and they're eager to explore the issues with you, if they know this is anonymous, this person is safe, and I'm not going to be judged.

Susan Tatum 6:54

So then when does this? When does this come into play? When you're when when you said when your clients, they're looking for ways to grow? Beyond acquisitions, and the usual go get some more clients. And they call you in to help identify what they should be doing and how they should be doing it?

Urko Wood 7:11

Well, you know, it's happens. It's a little different for different companies. One thing that is probably most common is we're looking for new revenue streams, we're looking for new, we want to create new revenue streams. So there others say, hey, we have a core product, there's a lot of competition. There, they don't say can we leapfrog I can help them leapfrog the competition with this approach, we can get into that more later. But so nailing a core market or I should say, but a core job, you grow a core market by nailing a core job to be done. That's what a core market is. Other jobs that are important and unsatisfied, are new or potential new market opportunity. So maybe I give an example. So it's a theoretical. There's an accounting firm here in central Ohio, their regional they're in Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, elsewhere. And a lot of new entrants were jumping in to the market and low balling what the two key offerings they're 85% of most accounting firms revenue, which is tax and audit, and you can't really differentiate on compliance work nobody wants to spend more money for a particularly good audit or a particularly good, you know, tax work. Now, maybe that's maybe I'm wrong. But that's that's generally true. Conventional wisdom. They've told me this on compliance work. So they're having difficulty hidden there both revenue and profit goals with all these new entrants low balling their fees. So they came and said, and we had talked, I had met the managing partner at a conference and talk a little bit so she knew a little bit about what I do. And I met with the partners. And first thing we want to do is redefine the market from the customer's point of view. This is an essential thing that most people don't even think about. You know, we're we typically define markets according to the product or service that we deliver, and maybe the size of the market based on the historical revenue that that category we're in, has generated. So you might say the accounting business has generated, you don't know what the right number is, but 10 billion in the US, based on accounting services being provided in the past year, that'd be a pretty normal kind of conversation. But and that's good for an historic look backwards, you know, for an accountant, and that's a great thing. CFOs do a lot of great work with accountants. But if you're trying to create something in the future, that you can be confident people will want. You need a forward look that has no tie to any current product and or historical revenue, so that a lot of people say, of course, that's impossible. Well, it's not impossible if you redefine the market from the customer's point of view, they don't care about my solution or yours, they care about getting their jobs done. So that's the foundational premise of jobs to be done the innovation approach. People buy products and services to get their jobs done. Just like we hire people to do jobs, doctors, carpenters, help with a move, we hire people to do jobs. We also hire products and services to do jobs. We hire drills to make holes, we are vitamins to improve our health. We are podcasts to gain information.

Susan Tatum 10:10

To help solve a problem

Urko Wood 10:12

Yeah, to solve a problem or be entertained or make a ride, commute more interesting there all kinds of things that people do. But if you redefine it as a group of people who share the same job, or jobs to be done, that's a great market definition for innovation. Because if you can, if you can help that group of people get that job done better than current offerings, you can be confident you will have a valued and unique position in the marketplace, which, as somebody who does differentiation, those words probably resonate. That's a good old Michael Porter from like 30 years ago on what his strategy and that most pithy one I've ever heard about what his strategy, he says is a value that it's creating, forging a valued and unique position. And what we're doing is helping our clients forge a valued and unique position, sometimes one feature at a time, but who cares if you do 10 features, and you create a value and unique position for that feature to get that little thing done. And a bigger job you have, maybe it's a 1% 2% improvement with each one of those features, you can have a breakthrough products without any big deal. You know, it's not a big new product, but they execute on on 10 or 15 things so much better the product is overall a breakthrough.

Susan Tatum 11:27

So the same thing would be true a service as well.

Urko Wood 11:30

Yes, yes, absolutely. A lot of people usually in the service arena will say, Well, does this work for services? And it's a great question. And the answer is absolutely. And the reason it does is because again, customers don't care about our solutions, they don't care if it's a product or a service, if you're helping them get their job done. They don't care. Give them a service that works. Give them a product that works. Usually it's a little of both these days, but what they want is my job getting done.

Susan Tatum 12:00

And it's um, so it's, it's a matter of identifying the things that are keeping them from getting that job done.

Urko Wood 12:04

Yes, that's often, that's often a big part of core growth, I was mentioned, there's core growth, driving revenue and core growth, which would be a market share increase in revenue growth. And that would be the strategy there as what is impeding them from getting this job done better. And taking, removing those things, removing those barriers, and that's part of what we do in our interviews is find out, where are they struggling? Where are they trying to get done? What are the criteria they use to measure success? And where are they struggling? Those are the three key pieces of information at a simple level. But there's also like I said, I didn't finish that example, it may not come back, I think it does help flash out the idea a little bit about jobs to be done. There are a lot of companies who are just looking for new revenue streams as that accounting firm was

Susan Tatum 12:45


Urko Wood 12:46

And so and I was getting to the defining the market, the reason it's so important to define the market before you do anything, is because you want to know well, who are we going to talk to for the interviews? And what is the what are the boundaries? What's the job conversation going to be with these target customers? So in talking with the partners, we realize their target customer, customers are CEOs and CFOs it midsize privately held companies. So that's a nice definition of their target customer group.

Susan Tatum 13:16

And this is an existing target.

Urko Wood 13:18

Yeah, that's, that's they have a lot of people they'd love to have as clients in that target market but that's who they currently serve. Correct.

Susan Tatum 13:25


Urko Wood 13:26

Yes. So I interviewed 24 CEOs, 24 CFOs, on their behalf Excuse me, 24 total 12 CEOs, 12 CFOs, 12 non customers and 12 current customers. And since when you look at an accountant, this is a rich group of about 130 , 160 employees, about 20 partners, and a lot of different skills. So when you think about what's the capability that they can bring to the table. It's really any finance or accounting related job to be done. So the so that's how we framed the boundaries of the interviews in the market exploration. So I would, I would go to that CFO or CEO have back in the day when we did face to face. And sit down and say, I'm interested in understanding all of the important, unsatisfied tasks, I sometimes use the word use the word synonym tasks, because I don't want to confuse them with HR jobs. They're very important to you in the course of your work, very important these tasks to get done. But and forget about what solutions I know that my client has introduced us. But this could be something you get done with an internal accountant or a software solution, or a tax attorney. That's all separate and distinct. Today, I strictly want to talk about what are the tasks that are really important in the course of your work, that are finance and accounting related, that are not getting done to your satisfaction. And they start rattling them off, and I start exploring, I start taking them down, there's a certain word format, that can't be imported, particularly if we go into surveys. So this is probably worth just mentioning, you can do these things qualitatively. And I do a lot of them. And there's a lot of directional value, there's a lot of learning. GB Qs. This, this was a public case. So it's not a big deal to mention their name. They went on with the results from just equal to to build two new internal practice areas, because they saw some of the key jobs that their target audience wanted to get done, were closing the books, and other internal cost accounting issues. So it was plus, well, let me just stop there, because that led to the one service area called financial performance improvement. So that was a new service line. And that was very good. The partners loved that, because they wanted to give their associates different career paths. So they had two new service lines, just audit and tax now. And they also recognize they had a budding succession, you know, planning succession, turnover and leadership practice. But that became that was clearly one of the things that we heard a lot too, so they had confidence to move forward on that. But when you get a market view, using jobs to be done, with no solutions attached any of these statements like we want to, we'd like to prepare for succession, we're not pleased, there are a lot of financial issues, because there's an equity transfer, we're not sure how to do it, or, you know, we had so and so help, it wasn't very helpful, we're not really there yet, we postpone you know, you hear those problems. But because the job statements are framed in a way that doesn't have any solution language in it.

Susan Tatum 16:35


Urko Wood 16:36

you know, like, close the books or whatever, you have the option as the leadership, looking at this, the findings from the qualitative only, in some cases, to say, well, we always my job is to lead them through this conversation, to select which of these opportunities are attractive to you, based on your opportunity. And based on your ability, I should say, to address them, and when the market will develop criteria, it's quite easy to do rate them, and we'll get a ranking. And some of the top rankings will be things that they as an accounting firm that delivers their services through people, you know, on site or through the phone or through the, you know, spreadsheets, it wouldn't be, they wouldn't win. Because we're not competing. One of the great things, interesting things leaders often see and go that's very interesting is that the markets a lot bigger than they think, because we're not defining it by their product or service category. So an accounting firm does not compete only with other accounting firms. They compete with anybody or anything that is helping their target customers get those financial and accounting jobs done. And that includes tax attorneys, Turbo Tax and other tax fraud, software products, internal accountants, all of that is a secondary issue. We shouldn't be injecting that into the conversation until we get really clear about which opportunities are attractive. And of course, they're not going to pick something to pursue with an in with a build decision. You know, this is where we talk about build or buy. Build something internally based on our succession planning expertise. One of the partners was already doing it. It's really blossomed since then, or do we want to buy and they said, Yeah, we want to buy a cybersecurity firm because that's another problem that we're hearing from our customers so they, it gave them great clarity and confidence to go out and buy a cybersecurity firm that's now part of their firm. It also gave them courage and confidence to do a joint venture with a temp accounting firm, which has become a temp CFL Firm. they want to do the sort of the fractional CFO services, they've partnered with an employee benefits firm. So they recognize, these are all jobs that their target customers are trying to get done. It doesn't have to even be even be related to financial and accounting, the way the project was initially framed. Those are any important unsatisfied job that their target customer is trying to get done is a potential opportunity for them new market opportunity for them.

Susan Tatum 19:00

So they are in a certain way, at least in this example, identifying the target market in a somewhat conventional manner. Because you just did CEOs CFOs at midsize firms

Urko Wood 19:11

Well I'd say, for that half. Yes. But But what I'd say unconventional, is we're not talking about product or service at all, in the definition,

Susan Tatum 19:21

right, you're gonna go in and, and try to understand them better.

Urko Wood 19:25

Understand well, even more precisely, I mean, that's, that's often the language that we use, but I would encourage people to be more specific and say the job they want to get done, because we don't need to know about where they went to college, what papers they read, what their demographics are, that is extra. Now, that's important in order to access them to know where do I find these people. That's an important part of marketing, but not an important part for innovation. That's a very important distinction. People don't I don't hire the Wall Street Journal because of my demographics. I hire it because I want to be up to date on certain news in the world. And with business, I love reading about how companies are dealing with certain issues, I want to have that kind of ability to talk about those things. when the occasion arises, I want to learn how people are doing strategy and innovation. So those are the jobs that no other paper I know of in the world does as well as the Wall Street Journal. That's why I hire it, to get my job's done.

Susan Tatum 20:21

So that get us through. So I know that the jobs to be done is like a four step process. And I think you just covered those four.

Urko Wood 20:29

why can cover their three to high level, they're really I use six when I'm with my clients just because they're ready for it. I use it as an intro to keep it simple. But I'm happy to break it out as much as you want.

Susan Tatum 20:40

Well, I'm just I just what I really wanted was just summarize that really what you're saying is, take a look at your market from your customer's point of view, which is what we're hearing here is not what solution I need. But what I'm trying to accomplish that I'm having trouble with?

Urko Wood 20:56

Very well said. Yes, exactly.

Susan Tatum 20:58

And then you're going to find the opportunities that exist in helping them that you can help them solve for the things that they brought up.

Urko Wood 21:06

That's correct. And you can do that with qualitative interviews alone, as I mentioned, or and if I may just inject one thing here, that is if if you have a complex project, like I helped, can am off road vehicles, BRP, big company, nine different vehicle platforms, over 70 different models, they wanted to upgrade their entire vehicle line. And you can't do that with interviews, it's there's too much going on. I mean, it just take 1000 interviews or something, to figure out how to all the different things that get upgrade. But with jobs to be done, we can simply talk to a representative sample and each of those nine groups, so they're nine different vehicles. So we call that one group, when we interview them, uncover all the things that they're trying to get done with their vehicle from you totally utility vehicles, like you see on golf courts, or, you know, for different university management, all the way to high end, do riders and racing, side by side vehicles. So that, and

Susan Tatum 22:05

Thy are different

Urko Wood 22:07

very different and a bunch of hybrids in the middle. But people are trying to get different jobs done. So we'd figure out what are the jobs this, this group is trying to get done. That's the objective there and the survey, then we put those neat statements into an online survey. And that's where you start getting, you start revealing the natural segments of opportunity, meaning people have preferences right now, you don't want to impose a segment scheme on people you want to say based on what they're trying to get done, and how they evaluate their success with their product. How do people fit together? Or are they different? That's jobs based segmentation. So it's a much more robust, more predictable way to do segmentation and to uncover opportunities. So you can do it the total market level, you could do it at different segments level or group level. But that that's where there's the surveys can the three benefits of the survey is you get statistically valid ratings on every need statement because people will be asked, How important is it to you that you're able to do X? and on the same need statement, they'll also be asked, how satisfied are you with your current ability to do X? It's a five point Likert scale. And if it's a five on importance, and let's say it's a two on satisfaction, there's an algorithm where you can see what the population score is. And you can put every one of the neat statements in a nice little two by two, I would show this to if I had thought about bringing it but it's a nice little two by two, where you have on the x axis, the horizontal, you have important and unimportant, so highly important is to the far right, not important, it's almost is that the the cross with a y, and then the y is the vertical is highly satisfied and low satisfied below that. So you have four quadrants, and it's only those that rate as highly important, or I should say important and unsatisfied, that are actually opportunities for innovation growth. If they're unimportant, then why waste your time? That's major in the minors, right?

Susan Tatum 24:06


Urko Wood 24:07

if it's highly satisfied, and unimportant, still unimportant. And actually, that might be an opportunity to remove functionality and complexity, if it's over satisfied. People may feel like why am I paying for all this functionality, it's unimportant. So that's one of the first things we look for, when we find things fall into that quadrant. And then the top right, if you have, if you're with me on the visualization, this is highly important and highly satisfied. And that's sort of the table stakes in that if you want to do something new, the market is currently satisfying those important needs. And they're very important for a startup or for something new because you have to hit those metrics for parity. And we don't want to be at a competitive disadvantage, because you weren't aware of them. So you definitely want to know them, but you're not going to get any differentiation, you're not going to rise above the noise,

Susan Tatum 24:55


Urko Wood 24:56

meaning parody. So the only ones that will give you a differentiation, and they will do it in a repeated manner. That's why I use those words, repeatedly create a valued, unique position. And that's those that fall into highly important and unsatisfied.

Susan Tatum 25:12

So maybe you can give me a link to one of those charts that we can put in the show notes that people can see if they're, if they want to take a look at that, you know, what, when what as a former marketing person, what I'm hearing what I'm thinking, when I'm hearing you talk about this, these conversations in this research is Oh, my God, you're halfway or more than halfway to getting your positioning, right. When you do come up with these solutions, because you you're you've done the right things in understanding what's important and needed by your buyers.

Urko Wood 25:42

I love that yes, to build on that it's sort of like you've heard maybe the old adage that a problem a well defined is half solved. You know, I like to use a version for us, which is a customer need half well defined is half satisfied. And what that means is when we go into ideation, so after we go through all of this, we have a short list. And maybe I could come back, maybe come let me come back to the four steps i this will tie in together with the four steps, we started saying redefine the market, from your customer's point of view, find the opportunities in their market, those are their unmet needs. And an unmet need is an important unsatisfied need, the more important and less satisfied your need is, the greater the opportunity for innovation and growth. So find their unmet needs, because those are your opportunities for innovation and growth. And you need to find a compelling unmet need if you want to create compelling new value, there is no such thing as creating compelling new value without an already existing compelling unmet need. A lot of people think that Steve Jobs created a new market and new needs or Henry Ford or you know, pick your famous knew the world case. And that's that's a confusion between solutions and needs. People only hire products and services because they have a current, important unsatisfied need. Now cut people come like Steve Jobs did brilliantly with a solution that never existed before. And suddenly people buy it. And so they make a market in terms of financial remuneration for that product. But there are always people who had the job of wanting to listen for the iPod, let's say. People wanted to listen to music remotely. Back with the Walkman and same thing with a Walkman. Sony did not create a market need the need existed, they created a market of products that address an unmet need.

Susan Tatum 27:31

They found the need Yeah,

Urko Wood 27:33

you put on higher things that they don't have an important unsatisfied need for it.

Susan Tatum 27:28

Well, this has been this has just really been awesome Urko I'm sure that the audience has taken a lot away from this. I know I have and I think they probably will have some follow up questions for you. What's the best way to get in touch?

Urko Wood 27:50

Well, thank you. It's been fun. My website is And my email is and of course I'm on LinkedIn and Twitter and Facebook as well.

Susan Tatum 28:07

Oh, okay. All right. Well, we'll put all of that in the show notes as well. And thank you again. And

Urko Wood 28:11

thank you.

Susan Tatum 28:12

We're here on December 21. So have a wonderful holiday.

Urko Wood 28:16

Yes, thank you.



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