Did you know that there is a reliable way to succeed in product innovation? Most of the projects fail even before they get released to the public, it is difficult to succeed with a new idea or even enhance a product. We have the answer to the question “How can I make sure I am going to succeed where thousands of others have failed?” The Leaware team has been working on many successful projects where clients were asking themselves the same question. Let’s start with some well-known examples to make it clear and to show easily what is innovation about.
Surely you remember devices such as portable CD players or MP3 players. Have you ever wondered why people don’t use these devices anymore? How did it happen that they were replaced by solutions such as Spotify and Apple Music? After all, they were very popular and used by millions of people around the world. But something had to happen that they joined the circle of technological products that future generations will encounter mainly in museums.
Have you ever wondered how to make your new digital product successful like Spotify? I can assure you that it is not just a matter of luck. In this article, I will put you on the right track to maximize the probability that the solution you are working on (or thinking of) becomes a successful digital product. I will use the example of Spotify, mainly because I use it myself. But I have in mind all cloud solutions such as Apple Music, Deezer, and Amazon Music.
What does Spotify help me with, and what did a CD player allow me to do?
Think about it for a while. You will quickly find out that the job you previously “hired” a CD player for and what you are now “hiring” Spotify for is identical.
In my case, the main job for that I hired Spotify, putting an end to using my CD player, was:
listening to music on the go.
It’s important to realize that you are using a product to help you get a job done.
How is it possible that the new solution applies to the same job for which I used to have my old CD player?
Thinking about it, you will discover that most often new solutions are “hired” by us to help in the same jobs that we previously did differently, due to the fact that we were hiring different tools or products for them. The work itself does not change – the ways we do it change. It happens due to technological progress, innovation, regulatory changes, etc.
You don’t believe me?
Ask people responsible for invoicing in various companies how this job has changed over the past decades. Or let’s analyze it together.
Job: issuing invoices for customers after a service is performed.
🔹 Many years ago, invoices were handwritten on a piece of paper.
🔹 Later, ready-made forms were “hired” for this purpose, you had to enter the contractor’s data and invoice items.
🔹 In the following years, programs such as MS Word or Excel began to be used; the customer’s data and sold items were entered into ready-made templates.
🔹 Then specialized applications began to emerge, usually as modules in monolithic ERP solutions.
🔹 The next step was to create simple applications that are available through a browser and allow you to issue invoices without the need to install large ERP systems.
Currently, you don’t even need to print an invoice or send it by e-mail, due to the fact that invoices are generated and settled automatically using systems for electronic data interchange.
Side question: How did it happen that in the times of large invoicing systems, suddenly there was room for very simple programs accessible through the browser, which, apart from the possibility of issuing an invoice, usually don’t offer much more? This is a topic for another article, but it is worth considering as it is also one of the strategies for bringing innovations to the market and make them succeed on such a scale.
Notice how many innovative products have been created during this time and how they have transformed and simplified invoicing. The job itself hasn’t changed much over the years, but the solutions that we “hire” to help us get the job done have changed many times, we know it well.
The second example: electric scooters made by companies such as Lime and Hive. A service that quickly gained popularity in large urban areas. Doesn’t sound like a fifty-fifty chance situation where it could hit the market or it could fail and we don’t know what can happen? Actually not! And the answer is simple just by asking: How would you define a job for which people started to “hire” scooters? My suggestion is:
I want to quickly and cheaply move several kilometers in the city center without getting stuck in traffic jams.
This is a job that has been performed by residents of large cities every day for decades. Before scooters appeared, people most often hired their own legs to get there, sometimes a bicycle, less often modes of public transport or taxis (it depends on the city). The problem with all these solutions was that it was either not cheap or it wasn’t fast, or sometimes you still had to sit in traffic jams (especially in the case of public transport and taxis). Did the job to be done change after scooters had appeared in city centers? As you can see, the job itself has not changed in any way.
It’s the scooters that changed the way the average person can do this job.
This is why they succeeded.
Why didn’t anyone start Lime twenty years ago? Why did no one come up with a solution like Spotify thirty years ago? What made those changes possible? Let’s go back to the Spotify example again for a moment.
What was problematic, and why am I no longer using my CD player?
What made Spotify and similar applications revolutionize the way we listen to music? After all, the aforementioned work hasn’t changed for many years:
listening to music on the go.
The bottom line is that CD players never met some needs that I could always identify, but sometimes I had no alternative for them.
🔹 For example, to have a lot of songs with me when I go on a long journey. Taking more than 4–5 CDs with me was always problematic. It’s true that it’s better to take 5 CDs than 5 vinyls, but I had no access to the entire database of songs I had in my collection.
🔹 Another need that a CD player never met was overcoming the necessity to buy a whole CD to listen to one track that I liked. I had to pay for the entire album, although in most cases I really wanted to listen to one or two songs.
🔹 Another unmet need was creating my own playlists. Over time, I was able to meet this need with a CD burner − I “hired” a CD burner to create my own playlists on a CD, but I guess it was never entirely legal, and what’s more, it was problematic. I had to have a recorder and a computer to burn the disc. Of course, I also had to have a lot of free time. It couldn’t be done quickly, in a few minutes. Moreover, it was impossible to change anything in the playlist, such as adding or removing a song. Also, the number of songs on such an album was limited to a dozen or so.
Of course, there were more of these needs – and although the CD player was an excellent device, it was never able to meet them. All of these needs have been met by applications such as Spotify. So what made it possible?
Changes of the market environment
There have been some changes in the market that have made Spotify better than a CD player when “hired” to listen to music. The way the founders of Spotify took advantage of these changes led to the creation of an innovative application that is used by millions of people around the world.
What changes had the greatest impact on the ability to create the Spotify product?
👉🏻 cheap data storage in the cloud
👉🏻 phones that allowed creating and launching applications
👉🏻 cheap Internet access − including in mobile networks
👉🏻 increasing memory in phones allowing the storage of significant amounts of data
What changes in the market environment made it possible to create such a product as an electric scooter?
👉🏻 the ability to track the current location of the scooter using GPS
👉🏻 the possibility of renting a scooter without the assistance of a human, only with the use of a smartphone
👉🏻 advances in battery technology enabling an electric scooter to travel many kilometers, while the scooter itself is still small and comfortable
You could probably list other changes, such as the possibility of paying for the scooter service automatically via the mobile application. If you are aware of these changes in the business environment, you can answer the question yourself: Why did no one create companies such as Spotify or Lime twenty years ago? Because their products were technologically not feasible in those days. The technology was either unavailable or not widely available. There were more limitations such as mobile payments not being very popular, too large and heavy batteries, too high costs of producing one scooter, etc. All of these limitations made it impossible to create an effective and well-working business model. This is another key issue in successfully building an innovative digital product.
We will not deal with the issue of how to create effective business models in this article, but I will give you one more interesting example that is related to scooters.
Perhaps some of you have thought about Segway while reading this article. It was the first device technologically close to the scooter. Before it was released, it attracted a lot of attention around the world. Publications about Segway were almost everywhere. The founders predicted that sales would explode to 10,000 units a week and the company would hit $ 1B in sales faster than ever before. But this didn’t happen. Instead, the company sold fewer than 10,000 units in the first 2 years and less than 24,000 units in the first 4 years. What was initially a really cool product turned out to be a huge flop. The Segway hadn’t become successful and now they’re only used in several niche areas. If you think about it in the context of a job for which a user would hire a Segway, you’ll realize that it’s definitely not a job for which you would hire an electric scooter. A beautiful Segway for which no meaningful use has been found that would defend itself with a good and efficient business model.
The creators of Spotify realized that with these changes, they could create a solution that would perform better than a CD player. The result is a very innovative solution that has redefined the way people listen to music.
Thanks to the hard work of the Spotify team, I currently have:
✅ access to all songs without having to buy CDs (one-month subscription for the price of one CD is enough and I can enjoy millions of songs from all over the world)
✅ all the songs I want with me (thanks to the large memory capacity of my phone)
✅ no need for a separate device dedicated to listening to music (all you need is a phone or even a smartwatch)
✅ the ability to create playlists in a few seconds.
What’s more − Spotify has solidified some new needs that it would be difficult to give up now, such as:
✅ sharing my playlists with other people
✅ access to the charts
✅ access to other people’s playlists
✅ auto-generated playlists based on the songs I like the most.
All of this put together was enough for me to leave my CD player for the museum.
How does all of this relate to my digital product?
So how do you transfer the experience of the creators of Spotify to the process of building your digital product? What was the key with Spotify or electric scooters to help their creators succeed? What should you do in order to not make mistakes like those of the creators of Segway?
Jobs for which the user will “hire” my solution
The key issue for you is to diagnose what jobs your product will be hired for. You need to know this, otherwise the risk that you’ll create a product that looks nice and attractive to users, but that they don’t find any job that your solution can help them with, will increase significantly.
There were many companies experimenting with Segways. The U.S. Postal Service tested Segways for letter carriers. The police tested them in Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, gas companies tested them for meter reading in Pennsylvania, and the Chicago fire department tested them for paramedics in a crowded city center. However, none of these tests resulted in large sales. Segway has been relegated to niche (city tour) and absurd (Segway polo) uses. So this is when you realize it takes more than testing, nothing is granted if the needs are not fully satisfied and the right solutions are not found properly even though they may look good before reaching the market.
Note that these tests took place after the product had already been released to the market. It should be exactly the opposite – first you should understand who and what job your product will be hired for, instead of creating a beautiful and tempting product that you later have to look for a market for.
Remember that before you discover a job in which you want your digital product to help, you need to have a good target group. You have to describe it as precisely as possible. Think what would have happened if Spotify had targeted audiophiles for whom the most important need is the highest quality sound achieved on professional stereo equipment? Spotify wouldn’t have had a chance and the company probably wouldn’t have become successful. Audiophiles have no problem with listening to music at the best sound quality on the go because they just don’t do the job.
Likewise, the company that created the application for simple invoicing via a web browser doesn’t target the needs of accounting departments of large companies that use large ERP solutions. Instead, it focuses on a whole new market of micro-companies that need very simple tools available from anywhere in the world to perform simple tasks. Small entrepreneurs don’t need all of the functionalities of large ERP systems.
It’s very important to understand very carefully what stages the job of your users consists of. How are they preparing to get the job done? What do they do before it starts? What do they do while doing it? When can they say the job is done? It’s also very important to understand the emotional aspect of the job. How does the user want to be perceived by others? What emotions drive them before, during and after work?
Remember that the job consists of stages and activities that don’t depend on the technological solutions used to do them. Finding out what products and solutions users are hiring to get the job done is the next step. Are the users hiring the same products, are there any trends? Or maybe you’re unable to discern any trends?
Once you’ve determined what job you want to help your users with, how the work is going, and what steps it consists of, then consider whether your product will help them do the job better than the solutions they’re currently using? What unmet needs do you want to support with your product? And what makes your product able to satisfy them better than current solutions?
It’s like in the example with a CD player – to create a playlist, I had to use an alternative method because the player did’t allow me to create a playlist. The alternative method of using a computer with a CD burner was quite complicated and a person without technical skills and knowledge wasn’t able to make such a playlist. If the need arises frequently and anyone using a portable CD player would like to be able to create playlists, and you know how to meet that need, it means that you’ve taken a very big step towards creating a worthwhile solution.
Is your solution able to help with all of the users’ jobs or only with some parts of it? The more your product helps with all of the jobs, the more likely you are to be successful.
Note that you have not yet started creating application screens, diagrams, specifications that define what your product will look like. Its development has not started yet.
Less, but better – not: more, but weaker
Don’t make the mistake of starting to build a solution that helps with many of the users’ jobs, but in a very general, superficial way: for example, a solution that helps in five jobs, but only one step in each one. A much better idea is to create a solution that will help in one job, but in a complex way, touching many unmet needs and creating new needs, just like Spotify did.
What characterizes innovative products is that they are not a collection of dozens of functionalities. Instead, they focus in particular on one or two user jobs at the beginning, they perfectly meet the needs that have not been met so far, and they do so in such a way that the users love them “at first sight”.
We build a digital product
Now, when you know what job you’ll help users with, what unmet needs you’ll answer with your product, you’ve found trends, confirmation that these needs apply to an entire group of users, and you’ve found a business model that has a chance to work, you can think about building the first version of your digital product. Remember to invest as little as possible at the beginning and learn as much as possible from it. The probability that you will hit the jackpot from the very beginning is unlikely, so it’s best to assume that the first versions of the product are not geared towards generating high profit, but they are created to learn together with early adopters so that you can fine-tune the product to a level that’ll allow you to scale it. You can read more about how much you should invest in building a v1.0 product here:
Time to get it started!
I’ve prepared for you a FREE TOOL named USERS’ JOBS DISCOVERY in which I’ve collected practical methods on how to discover users’ jobs and their unmet needs. It’s crucial to build an innovative digital product they’ll love. Make your product successful using these methods!
You can GET IT below:
This tool will help you in:
🔸 detecting jobs of your users you should focus on
🔸 detecting steps of jobs performed by users
🔸 comparing if different users are performing these steps in a similar way
🔸 detecting what are they missing today in executing steps
🔸 defining and describing unmet needs
🔸 connecting unmet needs with features of your product.
Together with the Leaware team, we help create innovative digital products every day. If you need support at the stage of discovering needs, defining or developing a solution, contact us.
 In the nomenclature of people involved in the creation of innovative products, we use the word “hire”. The goal is to realize that using the service or product to get the job done is not accidental and it’s the user’s decision. The word “hire” reflects it well – especially when the user usually “pays” in some way for the value generated by the “hired” product or service.
 The application had 345 million users at the end of 2020.
 Although some of these functionalities could be also referred to YouTube or MySpace before, they weren’t usually hired to listen to music on the go.