Recently, I had a major breakthrough in my studies. After what has been years of searching for a clear starting point for business strategy and models, I came across the concept of the Job to Be Done.
Job to Be Done is the fundamental problem a business or an organization seeks to solve for someone else. (It could also be seen as the fundamental need or want the business seeks to satisfy for someone else.)
There is lots of explanation of the Job to Be Done, so best to pop it into Google to see more on it, and I highly suggest doing so. However a good article to start with would be found here on Innosight's website.
This concept turned my customer first approach completely on its head. Rather than starting with the customer's needs, one starts with the most fundamental understanding of a specific problem. Why? In the long run, the business's desire and ability to solve a given problem will be far stronger than the desire or ability to do anything a certain group of people (the customer segments) want the business to do for them. It makes sense that over time customer segments will most likely change, but the reason the organization was established will generally stay constant.
An excellent example I found in the Innovator's Toolkit demonstrates what can happen if businesses do not first focus on the Job to Be Done. Just before the decline of the candle industry over 300 years ago, candlemakers were busy innovating to meet their customers' needs - longer burning time, less smoke, etc. When the lightbulb came along and replaced the need for candles, candlemakers were taken by surprise. Why? Because candlemakers did not focus on the Job to Be Done, the need for light. In focusing only on improving their existing solutions for the Job to Be Done, they were blind to innovation opportunities.
What is the takeaway?
Take a good hard look at your business or organization, and try hard to identify the Job to Be Done at the most fundamental level. Take care to identify the ways in which your solution addresses the Job to be Done. Are you doing everything you can to accomplish the Job, could you be doing better or more? And, perhaps most importantly, free yourself from thinking of the needs of your customers. As many examples from the computer industry have shown us, customers may often be the last to think up new and innovative solutions to their problem, but they are the first to adopt them!