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Disruption is often about simplifying the job…

Submitted by on January 18, 2014 – 6:49 amNo Comment

A business syllogism* in brief and in detail.

In brief:

  • Every business is in the business of helping someone get a job done.
  • The majority of these jobs are now mediated by computer interface (that is, we use a computing device to complete all or a portion of the job)
  • Therefore if you can significantly improve the user interface to complete the job better, faster, cheaper you can disrupt the status quo.  Even in a saturated, hyper competitive marketplace.

In detail:
Nearly every business is in the business of helping someone get a job done. If you manufacture coat hangers you are helping a customer complete the job of hanging their clothes.  If you develop time-tracking software you are helping someone complete the odious job of accounting for their time. Improving the customer’s ability to get the job done is at the heart of innovation and is as old as progress.

In an age where so much of our attention is now spent online (26%) and so much commerce is mediated by computers we are increasingly relying on software and user-interface to complete any job.   There are an endless list of jobs that are now mediated by a computer screen.

  • Banking and Investing
  • Accounting systems
  • Shopping
  • Dating
  • Entertainment (music, television, movies)
  • Getting the news
  • Connecting with friends
  • Personal health
  • Conducting nearly any form of research (from home fixing to travel planning)

and so on….

Therefore if you can significantly improve the user interface to complete the job better, faster, cheaper you can disrupt the status quo.  Even in a saturated, hyper competitive marketplace.

As a case study, consider online dating.

The job at hand is timeless and simple;  find a partner.   The space is saturated.   You have your pick of massive aggregators like eHarmony, Match, Chemistry.com etc. and you have inumberable niche dating services like J-date, ChristianMingle, SeniorPeopleMeet.com and too many others to mention.  Who would  want to enter this marketplace?  It is a well-funded, overcrowded, snake pit.

Enter Tinder, a start up  that is once again showing that simplifying how we get the job done through elegant user-interface improvements is a deceptively simple tactic for disruption.

Tinder bypasses almost every step considered necessary in the older models:

  • It uses Facebook as your login credentials – carrying over all of your structured data (name, age, location etc.).  No more time-costing sign ups.
  • It does away with all of the other extraneous profile details needed at the very beginning of the dating process.  No more, “I like Pina Coladas and walks in the rain…” because if you are unnattractive to your potential partner – who cares? Tinder gets straight to the fun part; showing you images.
  • It is designed for a mobile device first.  Quick, simple, convenient.  It incorporates gestures into the user experience to get the job done in an incredlbly intuitive way.  Swipe left to like a profile, right to dislike.  You can get the job done while ordering a latte at Starbucks.
  • If two parties both like each other you can move to messaging each other – all within the application.  A totally self-contained experience.

Tinder now makes an estimated 1.5 million matches per day.

A job is simply a series of steps to acheive a desired outcome.  When you look at these steps you can quickly identify the steps that are painful or irrelevant (in the case of Tinder the avoid a lot of the less immediately relevant steps that their competitors force upon you; signing up, building your profile, browsing other profiles for a match).  You can also see which parts of the job are enjoyable (reviewing photos of potential partners) and put them front and center.   Further, if you look at behavioural models you see an increasing amount of time is spent accessing the internet via mobile devices – which require shorter format content, gestural design and immediate reward since people are often utilising this content in between other activities.

Tinder is just another in a long line of businessess to look at user experience as the key differentiator.  Tumblr disrupted web-publishing, Quora reframed  the Question and Answer business.   Though we may not all be in the dating market,  Tinder gives us one more lesson in how simple changes can transform the process of getting the job done and, in so doing, disrupt a saturated market.

*I recognize that this is not a proper syllogism and am using the term rather liberally.


Post script

It is always interesting is to consider what the actual job is.  For instance, if you are in the business of selling paint, at one level the job is about covering a surface in paint in order to restore or preserve.   On another level the job is about adding aesthetic pleasure or decorative value to the object.  At still a higher order, the job may be about helping someone achieve self-actualisation through design.   Knowing the job at hand is key.

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