In this post I want to try and organise my thoughts around the idea of “10x” products, how jobs to be done can be applied when looking at 2 different products without heavy research and the levers that can be pulled to change how products going to market compare to incumbents.
Ever since I read Jobs To Be Done by Tony Ulrich I have tried to view all products and problems through a jobs to be done lens, but more than that this book went a step further than Clayton Christensen's theories around Jobs To Be Done .
Jobs To Be Done as a book created a mathematical framework and set of procedures to actually work out what the jobs are that consumers are trying to fulfil, how important they are to a consumer and how fulfilled they currently are.
The theory being that you can, using maths, identify where the opportunities in terms of product features/functions are when looking to bring a new product to market.
I remember reading this book and being red pilled that there was a science to product thinking as opposed to a creative, exclusive almost gate kept skillset that went into bringing a product to market.
I think it would be fair to say that this book & its model actually kicked off a healthy habit of learning and applying mental models and systems to almost everything I could. If like me, this sounds cool to you - I cannot recommend the book Super thinking enough.
Thinking in models and Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) product maths led me to think a lot about a different product based theory that is commonly discussed.
The legend of the 10X product.
The theory is that if you are bringing a new product to market and you want to displace another existing product your product needs to be 10x better.
There is however very little written as to:
Being the weirdo I am, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this since I first read Tony’s book.
I took my thinking to the idea that if 10X products were needed to displace existing products. Were there any situations that are well known where this isn’t the case? And then if so either one of two scenarios must hold true.
The 10x Product is an incorrect theory
There is a mathematical model that would explain changes to the situation where a product is not 10x but still displaces the incumbent.
Oddly I kept coming back to the adage that the best time to start a business is in a recession. Why, where does this idea come from?
So here’s my theory - I think that the wisdom comes from a trend that during a recession whole swathes of bedrock market segments change their behaviours.
People question the buying decisions they’ve always stuck to and the products they’ve always used. Partly this is because they want to see if there are cheaper alternatives, but in considering cheaper alternatives they are also open to alternatives with higher value.
If correct - could this be modelled?
There is other wisdom that points to this. Consumers only need a small edge dislocation for a product to enter their lives and expand outwards.
When bringing products to market to address huge customers or problems the advice is go deep and skinny first and then build out from there.
All it takes is an edge dislocation. A delta in expectation and reality. A reconsideration of value.
So we start with X. The base product has a number for X
The new product is multiple of X ideally 10.
Why don’t we call X the product score.
We know that X will be dependent on on some scenario change and some inherent product condition. These inputs are in my opinion independent of each other. Such that X is probably the sum of them rather than the multiplication of them.
X = Product condition + Scenario
We typically view the situations in which we interact with new and old products though the lens of “friction” so I would rename scenario to Friction of use or F. Friction is a function that probably involves time, mental energy, emotion (to an existing brand maybe), habit possibly, maybe even something to do with society and some other unknowns.
Friction would explain why even when we know we shouldn’t be shaking hands with COVID-19 around, that that one simple thing is so hard to give up. On the surface it’s just not that hard to say, “Hey as part of setting an example I’m not shaking hands, let’s bump forearms”.
Product condition I would reframe as the value of the product. Let’s call it V
So we now have a product score:
Product score = Value of a product - Friction
X = V - F
At this point I wasn’t even sure if the recession wholly comes under friction. How does a recession change the friction to using the product. Well only the situation in which you are using the product would encompass the scenario change friction to use.
Thus I want to dive deeper into the value of the product.
I came to the conclusion that the value of a product by someone who doesn’t use it is independent of the scenario of use and thus we need to break down the factors that go into the Value of a solution.
I realise that the value of a solution changes to me depending on how expensive it is. If too expensive I can no longer reap any value from it. This also would play into recession consideration as consumers become cost sensitive.
Could it be that:
Value = Quality of product - Cost of product
V = Qp - Cp
I think so right? You can see that at a point the cost of product would be above it’s quality and so to you it is no longer valuable.
in relation to a recession, the cost of product in isolation doesn’t actually change right? $5 tomorrow is the same as $5 yesterday right? Well clearly not. Cost has subjective factors that you could say were down to situation, but I will call it emotion.
This emotion is illogical, irrational and for me unquantifiable.
This emotion explains why we’re the worst when it comes to paying developers $0.99 for the app they’ve worked hard on. This emotion explains why the difference between free, $0.99 and $2 is not ~$1 to us. Could emotion explain why long term commitments are sometimes advertised at Price per day or this is the price of one coffee per week?
So now we’re at
Cost of product = Price * Emotion.
Cp = P * E
The Quality of a product is the final main variable to visit.
This is how good a product actually is. It was easy to try and think about this as function/feature breakdown but to me this has to be viewed through the JTBD lens.
We don’t buy products for features, we hire products to solve our problems. In discussions over the past 3 years I’ve seen this position has made people uncomfortable. It’s too messy for them. When you go down the JTBD hole you start to realise that every consumer has several jobs they fulfil with individual products and that these jobs can vary wildly. It’s every marketers nightmare.
Pick any product you used in the last day - let’s say Netflix. What did it do for you and what are the alternatives? It would be more hygienic to say it has the best original content and that’s why you used it, but really it’s probably because you wanted an entertaining distraction. When you want an entertaining distraction, you can frame that Netflix is actually competing with TikTok, Fortnite, Puzzles or a good book.
And so can we frame the Quality of a product as a set of problems you are trying to fix multiplied by how effective it is at solving those problems?
Perceived Quality of solution = Problem solved * % of problem solved
Qp = Pm * %Ps
Some caveats here - Quality is subjective and has many meanings in common language so if you’re hesitant to this label suggest a new name! Remember it is the perceived quality and that these are the ramblings of a crazy person so please feel free to contribute.
Also bear in mind that both consciously and unconsciously we hire products to solve an assortment of problems and so I think it is fair to model Qp as a sum of several Pm * Ps matches.
Qp = (Pm1 * %Ps1) + (Pm2 * %Ps2) + (Pm3 * %Ps3)
Still with me? You must enjoy watching someone meltdown or you think I’ve actually worked something out here.
I think we have a final formula though. Do me a favour, take your product, a product you’ve worked on or a product you love and run it through this formula. Are we missing something?
You know why I wrote this right? To put my name on something.
This is the Theorem of Quinn’s Product Score
Theorem of Quinn’s Product Score
Product score = Value of a product - Friction
X = V - F
X = (Qp - Cp) - F
X = (Qp - (P * E)) - F
X = (((Pm1 * %Ps1) + (Pm2 * %Ps2) + (Pm3 * %Ps3)) - (P * E)) - F
So what are the levers to consider when competing with an incumbent and you want to displace them. What do you need to consider when you bring a new product to market?
Problems = Pm
How well it fixes those problems = %Ps
Price = P
Emotion around price = E
Friction of use = F
This whole thing is a pretty subjective model, but to be even more subjective I want to try and apply it to something to see if we can disprove it.
Let’s start with a physical product. My go-to physical product to dunk on is reusable straws.
Between a concern for the environment, a viral turtle video and an overall trend against single use plastics there is a call for a solution to disposable straws.
Look I don’t want to bring you this far along and lose you because you disagree with me on plastic straws. I am not taking a position on plastic straws. I would like to reduce the amount of plastic we throw away. Throwaway plastics do have a place in society that we will never fully remove. I simply like to look at where +90% of the plastic in our oceans comes from - Asia.
And back to it. You’ve seen some, maybe you even own some reusable straws. At first they seem like no brainer products. I have seen them advertised before and thought “Someone got home run rich off that” but the reality is that of all the straws I have every used, maybe one was a reusable straw. Why is this?
Let’s consider Quinn's product score:
Single use straws:
( (Problem: I want to suck up my milkshake without touching the cup * 100% problem solved) - (Less than 1 Cent * too small for me to care) ) - (Friction: Widely available and existing habit)
( (Problem: I want to suck up my milkshake without touching the cup * 90% problem solved) - ( $2 * I have to pay shipping too!) ) - (Friction: I need to make sure I properly clean this thing after, do I need to check that it has been cleaned before I use it? How can I be certain it is clean, I need to make sure I carry this with me all the time incase of those 7 milkshakes I drink a year)
And wonder which one is winning?
If you are a straw warrior - go you - here’s a roadmap on what you need to work on to make them work. Address these issues, concerns & levers.
As Netflix rose up, the torrenting of tv shows and movies sank dramatically, even when Netflix content is readily available on torrent search engines (or so I’m told 😉 )
( (Problem: I want to watch entertaining content * 100% solved) - (no real cost * tiny emotion around theft) ) - (Friction: I need to find the content I want, I need to find a fast enough torrent, I need to find a trustworthy torrent, I need to hide my IP address, I need wait until it has downloaded to watch it, I need to seed the content too to keep the network working, I need to like what I download or start again)
( (Problem: I want to watch entertaining content * 100% solved) - ($7 a month * 2 cups of coffee equiv meh) - (Friction: I just need to decide what to watch, I can easily change content, content comes with contextual information, I can build a watch list, the cotent quality adapts to internet strength)
Note that the emotion on price will change depending on how much you use this product.
Now, at least for me. It is starkly obvious how one of these products displaced the other and how one has failed.
Reusable X is not 10 * single-use X
Netflix X is 10 * Torrenting X (for most users)
Key learning here. This is a model that runs on opinions, I know that, but for me at least it adds such incredible clarity as to why one product cannot displace another product. Also very key see that X changes depending on who the user is due to their situation.
Was this the weirdest post you’ve ever read? It felt weird to write. If this helps, has helped or will help you - let me know. I like to talk to more people who are working on meaningful stuff.
When should you use this? Well - if you think you have stumbled upon the best solution to a problem and you are doing market research into the competition, work out their QPS (Quinn Product Score) is it greater than 10X what your solutions will be?
Got additions/ edits? Comment below or tweet at me. I absolutely want to make this better.