The Iron Law of Digital Innovation

Strategies, products and companies fail, when any of these components are out of sight. Jobs to be Done theory helps us focus on the intersection of all three.

The aim of my new workshop—‘Intro to Demand Thinking & JTBD’—is to create actionable insights from my study and practice of Jobs to be Done (JTBD) theory, and its associated frameworks.

By linking stories of my trial & error with research and examples of proven methods, I shape three central take-aways:

  1. Tools and technology is just a means to an end: The Job to be Done
  2. Solutions change, Jobs don’t. Take the Outside Journey to see what really matters
  3. Your product is never the end goal. Seeing things from a demand-side (what do they need?) perspective, as opposed to supply-side (what can we do?), helps you discover opportunity

Underpinning these insights, is a general principle I propose. It’s the essence of what I’ve tried and observed, through research and experiments. I’ve had a few wins, and made a lot of mistakes. All of which have enabled a strong intuition, a pattern language of sorts, for identifying risks in new ventures, be it simple digital projects or large-scale transformative efforts.

The key observation, and the central premise of this workshop, is this:

Business Goals are aligned with Customer Value,
Product Management becomes focused and avoids The Technology Trap,
So that
a Winning Strategy can be defined, executed, adjusted and expanded.

Note the three central components:

  • Business Goals — supply-side measures; what is available, what is possible and what do we want, as a company and as individual actors within the organization
  • Customer Value — demand-side measures: what is happening, what is necessary, what causes motivation and action in the world [1]
  • Product Management — any and all decisions related to the solution(s) you bring to market

And, the golden rule:

Innovation fails when any of these component are out of sight.


Perhaps best explained by a few slides from recent material:

Business Goals + Product Management = Build a product without knowing if there’s a real need for it.

Customer Value + Product Management = Build a feature just because customers say they want it, without stepping back to see how impacts the business

Business Goals + Customer Value = No product, no commitment. Ideas are worthless without execution, without something real.


Jobs to be Done Theory is the backbone of The Iron Law.

It is universally applicable and highly useful, because it provides the models that we use to create:

Sticky Insights: Make data reliable and understand demand for our products
Common Goals: Low risk and high potential
Shared Language: Eliminate waste and empower people

We know it works, when…

  • Our definition of the progress customers aim to make is stable and continuously generates promising ideas, and
  • Our project teams consist of cross-disciplinary skills from across the organisation, and
  • We describe business metrics, value propositions and product features in the words of our customers, and
  • The organisation gets results from both failure and success, and
  • We are willing to kill existing products, even if they perform well, because we discover better solutions, and
  • The solutions we introduce to the market consistently perform above average

We know it does not work, when…

  • We decide on assumption alone, or
  • We do not accept failure, or
  • We do not ask: ‘What has to be true?’, or
  • We do not compare our predictions to a base rate, or
  • We fail to achieve our goals, or
  • We act without clear goals, or
  • We have internally competing goals, or
  • We do not use the same words as our customers, or
  • We do not conduct tests, or
  • We do not talk to our customers

And, finally — the manifesto of Demand Thinking:

We will apply this lens to create necessary, useful, and beautiful products that people will buy.