Would Santa Ever Replace Poor Rudolph with GPS?
Looking at a harmless comic through a Jobs to be Done lens
When I woke up and saw this cartoon this morning, I immediately thought “JTBD”! Santa has a Job to be Done, and he’s firing his existing solution and hiring one he believes will help him get it done better/cheaper.
I nearly tweeted about this, cheekily suggesting that his criteria for “better” may be “fewer reindeer feces”, but I stopped. Something about this comic just didn’t seem right…
Looking at why customers hire or fire solutions needs to start with an understanding of the Job before you dig into the desired outcomes and evaluate potential solutions.
Ideally, I’d talk to Santa directly, but when I emailed him, I got an Out of Office reply. Apparently he’s taking some time off after wrapping up some huge project.
Failing that, I took a stab at my own description.
One of Santa’s Jobs to be Done: “Rewarding the world’s girls and boys for good behavior.”
Notice I left out the task of delivering and the solution of toys; it’s possible they could be rewarded in other ways.
But currently, that’s Santa’s jam. Refer to a list, load up a sleigh with presents, fly roof-to-roof guided and propelled by hoofed animals.
It does sound pretty antiquated, doesn’t it? Plenty of room for innovation here!
A convenient way to dig into this Job to be Done is to use the job map as developed by the team over at Strategyn. A good job map describes what the customer is trying to get done independent of the solution he is using.
While it would actually be really fun to dig into how Santa is currently doing each of these, that’s not the point. This isn’t about simply criticizing the shortcomings of current solutions, but rather seeking to uncover what the Job Executor is trying to accomplish, and what Desired Outcomes he would use to evaluate success.
So this is where this comic loses its allure for me. Santa’s Job to be Done isn’t just the task of ‘finding the quickest route to a given place’. He also has to get there.
When we talk about Jobs to be Done, we talk about customers hiring solutions that help them get the entire Job done better, not just one step or part of the process at the expense of others.
In this case, Santa wouldn’t fire a reindeer to hire GPS, because the reindeer helps Santa with more of the process. Santa would have to hire a navigation solution (GPS) as well as a propulsion service to replace Rudolph, and then worry about integration. While this type of overhead and risk can be overcome if the two solutions together offer dramatic improvement over the single solution, it can be very difficult to overcome customer hesitations.
While it’s intersting to think ole St. Nick may be upgrading his technology stack after all this time, it’s ridiculous to think he’d replace reindeer with just a GPS.
A Tesla, maybe. But not a GPS.
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Andrea Hill is the principal consultant at Frameplay. Frameplay is an innovation consultancy that helps companies become more customer-focused and thrive in a rapidly changing world. Learn more at frameplay.co
 — For more, check out Eager Sellers and Stony Buyers: Understanding the Psychology of New Product Adoption (HBR, 2006)