How Will You Measure Your Life? - Chapter 6 - What Job Did You Hire That Milkshake For?

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

January 9, 2020

[Christensen uses the question of "what job did you hire that [fill in the blank] for?" to introduce the theory that the best products and services are those that specifically address a need of the customer. In the case of the milkshake, Christensen's client had made improvements to their milkshakes that they thought the customers would like. But sales were unchanged after the "new and improved" shake was introduced. As Nicholas Epley discussed in Mindwise, our "sixth sense" is not all that reliable. If we think we can "mind read" and understand another person accurately, we are wrong. It's like the saying about don't assume - it just makes an ass of u and me. I've never thought that saying is all that accurate. It would be accurate if "assume" were spelled A-S-S-M-E, no U.

The solution - the dreaded TALK TO THE OTHER PERSON. Use Jim Ryan's question "How can I help?"

This summary was hard for me to put together because my errors in this area have proved so costly.]


In the case of the milkshake, when the company talked to its customers, they realized that the customers wanted thicker shakes - the shakes were being hired to help customers pass the time during their commutes.

Another helpful example that Christensen cites is that of V8. We probably all remember the commercials for V8 where someone says "Oh, I could have had a V8!" While those commercials are memorable, they weren't all that effective for increasing the sales of V8. Soon afterward, the maker of V8 changed their pitch emphasizing that drinking V8 was a way of meeting your daily vegetable requirements. Sales quadrupled. Why? Because customers realized they "could hire V8 to satisfy some of their nutrition requirements.

Christensen then turns the theory toward us and discusses how it can help in our personal lives. I hope you find the following excepts helpful - they certainly were powerful to me.]

When a company understands the jobs that arise in people’s lives, and then develops products and the accompanying experiences required in purchasing and using the product to do the job perfectly, it causes customers to instinctively “pull” the product into their lives whenever the job arises. 

But when a company simply makes a product that other companies also can make—and is a product that can do lots of jobs but none of them well—it will find that customers are rarely loyal to one product versus another. They will switch in a heartbeat when an alternative goes on sale.

Every successful product or service, either explicitly or implicitly, was structured around a job to be done. Addressing a job is the causal mechanism behind a purchase. If someone develops a product that is interesting, but which doesn’t intuitively map in customers’ minds on a job that they are trying to do, that product will struggle to succeed.

You and your wife can’t always articulate what the fundamental jobs are that you each are personally trying to do, let alone articulate the fundamental jobs that your wife has, for which she might hire a husband to get done.

Understanding the job requires the critical ingredients of intuition and empathy.  [I submit that intuition and empathy are fine, but OPEN AND KIND COMMUNICATION is THE CRITICAL INGREDIENT.  There is too much at stake to guess which is what intuition and empathy require you to do].

You have to be able to put yourself not just in her shoes, but her chair—and indeed, her life. [Note how Epley proved this doesn’t work.]. More important, the jobs that your spouse is trying to do are often very different from the jobs that you think she should want to do.

Ironically, many unhappy relationships are often built upon selflessness. But the selflessness is based on the partners giving each other things that they want to give, and which they have decided that their partner ought to want—as in, “Honey, believe me, you are going to love this Iridium wireless telephone!” It’s easy for any of us to make assumptions about what our spouse might want, rather than work hard to understand the job to be done in our spouse’s life. [ SO ASK HER WHAT SHE WANTS - ASK HER TO BE VERY SPECIFIC!!.]

We project what we and assume that it’s also what our partner wants.. It is so easy to mean well but get it wrong. A husband may be convinced that he is the selfless one, and also convinced that his wife is being self-centered because she doesn’t even notice everything he is giving her—and vice versa. This is exactly the interaction between the customers and the marketers of so many companies, too.

Given that sacrifice deepens our commitment, it’s important to ensure that what we sacrifice for is worthy of that commitment.  Perhaps nothing deserves sacrifice more than family—that you should sacrifice for your family!. I believe it is an essential foundation to deep friendships and fulfilling, happy families and marriages.

We can do all kinds of things for our spouse, but if we are not focused on the jobs she most needs doing, we will reap frustration and confusion in our search for happiness.  Our effort is misplaced.

This may be the single hardest thing to get right in a marriage. Even with good intentions and deep love, we can fundamentally misunderstand each other. We get caught up in the day-to-day chores of our lives. Our communication ends up focusing only on who is doing what. We assume things.


[While I was away in DC, my partner would clean and organize our house.  Mr. Clean had nothing on her; the place glistened. This work was physically demanding and was not good for her back.  After far too many hints - none should have been required - I lamely suggested I should help. While she didn’t show any reaction, she must have thought “Lord, it’s about time!” Kind of like when you show your kid how to do something and they just dismiss what you said. But weeks, months or years later, they show you what they “just discovered” and it is what you had showed them long ago.  (Could I have used anymore words to say that?). 

I assumed my approach to cleaning would be good so I did the “guy version” of cleaning and got frustrated when she noticed that I hadn’t done a thorough job.  ALL THE FREAKING II HAD TO DO WAS ASK HER (AS OPPOSED TO ASSUMING) AT THE BEGINNING TO SHOW ME HOW SHE WOULD LIKE ME TO DO THE CLEANING  INSTEAD OF ME ASSUMING THAT MY “GUY WAY” WOULD BE ADEQUATE. I amaze myself by how dumb I have been. ☹️]

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