Supposedly, Growth Exists Where There Are No Numbers


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How can we measure the unknown? How can we even locate the unknown? On the face of it, Clay Christensen’s quote “growth exists where there are no numbers” seems completely reasonable to any startup that has failed (which is most of them). While not explicitly stated, it seems to be the leading driver behind Steve Blank urging entrepreneurs to fail fast as well; which suggests that you collect data by iterating from a random starting point (it’s random, or you wouldn’t fail). It sounds reasonable in a world where new ideas, concepts and business models have no data to validate themselves. In fact, it’s completely unreasonable!

Clay Christensen states that there is currently no system of measurement for jobs-to-be-done relative to the non-consumption within an unknown market. He stated this clearly at SAP Sapphire 2014 and then mentioned that he is coming out with a really good book that solves this problem. Personally, I can’t wait to read it. However, the book(s) has already been written with a very mature approach to using outcome-based logic as metrics within the job-to-be-done context; and it has proven to work well in the product and service innovation world. Some are also out there using the basics of this system for other types of consulting; because at the heart of it, the system has transformed customer needs into metrics, and everything we do revolves around understanding those needs (internal and external customers).

As I was saying, the fact that we cannot understand customer needs in a systematic and highly accurate way is a completely unreasonable belief system for any business; startup or existing. When we are investing dollars into projects we want to know, as precisely as possible, whether those dollars will generate a reasonable return. We talk about this all the time, right? Don’t marketers try to predict their results (I know, bad example)? Do we not plug inputs into outcome models when buying capital equipment? We’re measuring everywhere…except apparently where the real opportunities lie. And this lack of measurement makes all of the other measurements suspect over the long haul. Because doing the right thing is the wrong thing (according to Christensen’s disruption theory) and part of the problem is aligning these decisions to organizational structures (Christensen calls aggregates); instead of a customer groups’ desired outcomes relative to a job-to-be-done.

It’s not a question of whether the unknown can be measures because even Christensen contends that it can be (he’s writing a book on it). The question is whether there is already a means to do this and whether “there are no numbers” is a convenient myth for those that can’t open their minds to new concepts. I clearly believe that new markets can be quantified by their size and value. So, if we can do this we should know…

  1. Is this (existing or new) market large enough to enter given the costs of doing so, and
  2. Can enough value be created so customers will switch, and/or non-consumers will consume

We really need to know these things before diving into an iterative process of building, failing, talking to customers, and for some reason failing again (?), and doing it faster and faster. Wouldn’t it make more sense to get it right the first time? I agree, it certainly does. Now, you just need to figure out how to identify these metrics that supposedly don’t exist. I suggest you start by reading What Customers Want, by Tony Ulwick, or getting a brief overview of these metrics by clicking here.

Using outcome-based logic and metrics, you can predict where value is shifting. This forward looking framework, along with an understanding of the tools and technology currently available to you, will tell you exactly how to grow where there are numbers.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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