Avoiding Disruption by Integrating Around a Job-to-be-Done

In a January 23, 2014 story by Millie Tran at the American Press Institute, Clayton Christensen noted that integrated companies that accomplish a job perfectly are really difficult to disrupt:

"It’s easy to disrupt a product with a disruptive product. But if you can integrate all of the experiences, purchase and use what the customer needs in order to do the job perfectly that they need done — it’s actually quite hard for people to disrupt that. I haven’t seen anybody in the media business integrate in that way. But I think there’s an insight there that would be worth trying to understand and apply.

So I can’t predict with perfect certainty that disruption will always occur to everybody because I think there is a way to counter that by positioning on a job to be done and integrating it to do it perfectly.”  http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/publications/good-questions/revisiting-disruption-8-good-questions-clayton-christensen/.

In the same article Christensen goes on to cite IKEA as an example of a company that’s successfully pursued this strategy.  It's not that other companies like Room and Board can't compete in the furniture industry -- it's just that they can't disrupt IKEA, for the simple reason that IKEA has an integrated solution that perfectly addresses a job that needs done.

Applying these concepts, Apple is integrated around easy to use, always accessible computing and content (whether it’s on a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone).  From a big picture perspective, this is what you have to apply the “good enough” analysis to — it’s not just about the specific device.  Is the computing technology so easy to use that it basically disappears, allowing the user to focus solely on the job at hand?  Probably not.  Is cloud content always accessible regardless of context or location?  No.  And to create perfect solutions to these problems, a company probably has to be integrated the way Apple is.   

The perfect integrated Apple solution to the job of easy to use, always accessible computing and content is:  seamless, reliable, secure, private, simple, versatile, and invisible.  There should be no complexity, and no visible technology, separating the user from the instantaneous/intuitive accomplishment of what he wants to achieve, whether it's using an app or accessing content.  There should be no more than one step between what the user wants to achieve and what he must do to achieve it, and this step should be so obvious and intuitive that the user doesn't have to think about it.  The technology should be easily and readily available, but not intrusive. 

The Chromebook is a good solution for people who are sure they don't need more, but it isn't a perfect solution -- it lacks versatility and is unable to handle the unanticipated.  It's also intrusive, lacks privacy, and lacks security:  Chrome and Android exist largely to gather user data needed to support Google's ad-based revenue model.  The Kindle Fire tablet has similar problems — it was created to drive consumption for Amazon, not to be a versatile, easy to use computing tool.  The perfect laptop/tablet solution is versatile but still simple -- versatile and powerful when you need it to be, but still really easy/intuitive to operate.

In school there's a big difference between the effort required to get an A+ versus a B.  And the difference between an A+ paper versus a B paper is noticeable.  The same phenomenon seems to play out in computing.  There's a big difference between an A+ product and a B product, and while many people proclaim the cheaper B product is "good enough," at heart they still want the better experience the A+ product provides.  An integrated company with a sharp focus on the perfect solution to a job that needs done is kind of like a student making the extra effort to produce an A+ paper.

The author owns stock shares of Apple.