Successful startups begin with a fresh perspective

In “How to get startup ideas” and “Mastering the art of disruptive innovation in journalism,” we are taught to look at the world from a different angle in order to introduce a useful product into the world and stay on top of trends in behavior in the most nuanced ways possible.

I found it intriguing that the second article discussed the aged policy of newsrooms heavily relying on demographic segments to predict price points and other factors in their businesses.

I have been perplexed by this concept ever since I began classes as a journalism student and started learning about who we’re ultimately writing for. I’ve always thought of the broad factors like age range, education level, etc. as not nuanced enough to accurately predict real-life decisions, although it was frustrating because I could never come up with an alternative way to frame it. What the author introduces as a “jobs-to-be-done” perspective has brought much clarity for me on the issue.

Jobs-to-be-done is much more nuanced and accurate in its predictions of decision-making patterns. People do not just obey the behaviors that are most common for their particular demographic – correlation, after all, does not equal causation. Rather, we are all individual people moving through life and looking for solutions when we do encounter a problem.

In this way, jobs-to-be-done focuses on the job itself instead of the human or the product. The “help me fill the time” job, as the author points out, is incredibly common. This made me think about the papers available on subways in an entirely different light – they are not just there because papers will inherently be read wherever they are placed. They serve a very specific purpose by filling in a gap of, say, 10-15 minutes for which a commuter might not have any reception on the train. Subway papers provide a pop of entertainment/otherwise interesting content that is far from high-end journalism, but does its job in terms of filling in a narrow gap of commute time with content (and advertisements) to read. This part popped out the most for me because it brings back and clarifies some memories; I went to Loyola University Chicago for my first year of college, and I distinctly remember seeing those flimsy little readers on the back of L seats and wondering why they even bother distributing them.

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