Friday, January 10, 2014

Panda's Thumb and Gaming the System

In 1980, the late Steven Jay Gould wrote about the Panda's thumb, which is not a thumb at all—but an extension of the radial sesamoid.

It's rigid - and if you had one, you'd probably want to cut it off because this thumb simply gets in the way. So are there "panda's thumbs" in management where we do something because at some time in the past this was important. The world has changed, but the routine still exists because management still believe that this procedure is important. In fact it is isn't. But these dated practices hinder management decision-making and the viability of companies.
In this second of three talks at Oxford University (somewhat buried on YouTube), Christiansen gives the example of how Intel failed to invest enough in the chips for mobile computing, even though they could see the phenomena growing much faster than server and personal PCs. He also talks about how managers are addicted to hockey-stick growth and will do anything to game the system to make it appear that things are on course.

He then gives an insight the Job to be Done theory. In the 1960s, Theodore Levitt, a professor at Harvard Business School, used to tell his students, "People don't want a quarter-inch drill—they want a quarter-inch hole". This profound insight is the basis of the job-to-be-done theory—something that has fascinated Clayton Christensen.

People are doing jobs all the time time in their professional and personal lives. Some tasks can done by yourself using the personal skills, mental skills and perhaps physical strength. Other tasks are more complicated and so people turn to products and services for help. The jobs to de done theory explains the reason why products are created and why people use them are the same thing! People buy products to get jobs done. All you have to do is work out what the job is.

If you translate this into media terms it means there is no point building profiles of the people in your audience. You need to understand what the audience is doing with the information or entertainment you are providing to them. 

I am a member of many listener panels, and always curious to see what is being asked. I note that broadcasters are always asking me whether I watch or listen to other competing stations. They never ask WHY I am tuning in to a particular station.

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