On Hiring Products to Do a Job

This week’s book learning is from How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen.

A fast food joint asked its customers how it could make milkshake better so they could improve sales. With customer feedback, they made it sweeter and nuttier but it led to no change in sales.

Clay Christensen and team were then called to solve the problem. They approached the problem by asking the question – what job did the customers hire the milkshake to do?

Careful observation revealed there were 2 types of jobs –
– Morning customers hired it to make their long commutes interesting. A milkshake was as filling as a donut or bagel, less messy, and easier to hold in their cars
– Evening customers were typically fathers who saw this was an opportunity to finally say “Yes” to their kid’s request (after many “no you can’t do this/that”). But they observed that, thanks to the thin straws, kids took too long to finish their milkshakes resulting in irritated fathers.

So, they implemented 2 changes –
– Morning milkshakes were made more viscous to last longer and included small pieces of fruit to surprise customers
– Evening milkshakes were made thinner and were provided with thick straws so kids could drink it faster

The outlet exceeded their new sales targets!


Clayton Christensen’s book is packed with many great insights. Next week, we’ll look at how Ikea understands and implements the “what job am I hired to do?” principle.