In this episode, we explore how you could use JTBD methods to innovate in education. Harvard is the gold standard of education. We will look at jobs that educational institutions are being "hired" to do. How can you build a product strategy to beat the dominant competitors in the education market?
Welcome to our podcast. How would you beat? In each episode we pick a company and talk about how you could use jobs to be done innovation methods to beat that company's product. We'll discuss innovation theory and explain the methods so you can put the theory into practice at your company. I'm Jay Haynes, the founder and CEO of thrv, that's thrv without the vowels thrv.com. We help product marketing and sales teams use jobs-to-be-done innovation methods to build market and sell great products. I'm here with my colleague, Jared Ranere. Today we're going to look at Harvard. And actually we're going to look at education in general. We'll use Harvard as the gold standard and advocate education. How would you beat Harvard? Well, everyone in America has experienced some aspect of education and how is it going is education in general and it institutions like Harvard. Are they helping to educate us and Americans generally? And if you wanted to improve education in the US, what product strategy would you use? If you wanted to beat Harvard? You wanted to come up with the next educational product that was going to grow and beat Harvard? How would you do it? College education in the US, only 35% of Americans have a college education. So on one dimension, of course, this is a big growth opportunity, can you get more people to take higher education and education has exploded, of course, over the past 100 years, education levels of any education elementary through high school, whites had about 50% of the population having any education and African Americans and other races had about 30% of the population 100 years ago, and today that number in the US is around 93-95%, something like that. So, in 2020, about 57 million students will attend elementary, middle and high schools. So, education across any dimension is huge. It's a large market, of course, and it's very important to our country and to the world. If you were to beat Harvard, what would the product strategy be? How would you beat Harvard?Jared Ranere :
Yeah, it seems like a pretty tall task. I think they're very good at what they do. But let's explore this question using our jobs-to-be-done strategy techniques. We break it down by first looking at who are the key customers that you're targeting? Who are the beneficiaries of this job getting done? What is the markets so what is the job that Harvard or any other educational institution is getting done for their customers, and remember, it could be multiple jobs. It could be a platform in which multiple jobs are served. What is the market size of this? So, is this an opportunity you want to go after? And how much should you invest in it? What is the amount that customers are willing to pay to get these jobs done? Or should the government pay for it? Right? We have a we have purchase control divergence in this market in some cases where the government is the payer. So what job is the government trying to get done? And how would you serve that in order to get them to invest in your new solution to educate the American people? Then we need to know where are people struggling to get this job done? So, what are their unmet needs? And how can you generate value is the last piece against these unmet needs? How can you help people overcome the struggle to get their education jobs done? And I think here Jay just mentioned that lots and lots of people are experiencing education in the US. The customer you could talk about as consumers learners. But I think in this case, it might help to explore what the jobs are, and then maybe go backwards to figure out what who needs to get those done. You know, sometimes we can start by defining a customer. And it's very clear what their job is marketers are trying to acquire customers, salespeople are trying to grow sales. But in this case, the jobs are so vast that it might make sense to start with the jobs and go backwards, the customer base is so vast. In a democracy, why do we need education? Well, I think the democracy is key here. Right? The fact that it's the US makes a big difference in terms of why you might need education and why it's important to the government and important to our society. Because here people have to vote. And one of the key reasons we have education as all is we need the citizens who can vote well, or else the government will cease to function. That's actually one of the jobs that our education system is serving. And then we have it sort of industrial society that we live in? Right? We're a capitalist society. We need our economy to grow. And we need to educate our citizens so that they can be more productive over time and help the economy grow. Now, these are really high-level jobs. And the question is, which customer are they serving? And are they really the jobs that students are trying to get done?Jay Haynes :
Yeah, that's those are all really great questions. And isn't it interesting education, of course, is a continuum. So, of course, you want to have educated voters, you want them to understand the issues to have insights into what's going to happen and what the effects of is going to be. And we do have a representative democracy. You know, we're not asking citizens to make a decision on every single policy decision, although sometimes here in California, we have direct democracy when we vote on things sometimes here in California. So, it is it is incredibly important that we have people educated and aware and interested in what's happening in our society. And I think as you said, Jared, we want people to be happy and productive and prosperous. And the way we have the system set up today, of course, you've got to go out and compete in a, in an actual market. And then I think also as you and I are both parents of children, small children, and there's lots that we want them to vet develop in specific ways. And some of it is just how to think learning those critical skills to how to solve problems and how to think. But what's interesting certainly in our schools out here, there's been much more emphasis on social emotional development. And that I also feel I find fascinating because you're right, if we've got education, broadly as a as a platform, and you look at the way that we use this platform of sending students to a physical location We were there with a teacher and a bunch of other students. And then we teach him a bunch of stuff. That's a platform and we teach a bunch of different things. And that's actually changed over time. You know, of course, we didn't know anything about genes until the mid 20th century. So, we didn't teach genetics. Now, that's something we obviously teach. And that's true for social emotional development. If you're a parent of a child, one of the things you want is your child to have really good emotional skills, and really good social skills. And it turns out those things are really important for success in any dimension of life, or the relationships you're in or your career or whatever. And schools have recognized that and changed what they're doing, to actually teach kids about social emotional development. I'm just joking, my friends, actually, just half jokingly, that I don't really care if my children are good at calculus, or even algebra, but I really care that they're emotionally well-adjusted and resilient. And make deep human connections. And yet if you look at where we emphasize in our educational system, it's clearly more on getting people to be better at things like calculus. But back to our question how you would build a product strategy. And one thing I do find fascinating, is what it seems to be emerging education system is really educational products that want to scale. And it really is kind of classic disruption. If you look at something like Khan Academy, which is really great started with a guy doodling on a virtual whiteboard to teach his I think it was his niece lessons and he just started to build up and now it's got this incredible assortment of lessons that anybody can go on for free and just learn whatever they want from biochemistry to algebra or whatever. And that I think, is amazing. Because that really is democratizing education. And it's a shift in platform. It's what we always say it's the exact same job. Harvard's trying to do. It's just a new platform emerges instead of Ivy-covered stone buildings that have been around for hundreds of years with teachers, and chalkboards, it's now online and videos and virtual lessons and etc. and that that happens in every market. But one of the things I really would love to see is a shift in higher education, especially the elite institutions, which Jared, as you said, do a very good job. This isn't just to criticize Harvard, obviously, they've been very great institution doing wonderful research and providing value to society, but they are an elite institution. They, they only have very few people who can buy their product, and they keep their product that way. But jobs-to-be-done. If you really think about it, whether you're a company or an organization, you want to help more people get the job done faster and more accurately. That's the whole theory. And if it really is a benefit to society for people to have a better education? Why isn't Harvard trying to get at 50 million people a year educated, instead of 1500, or about there? And that I think is interesting. And it's because it, obviously they don't take an innovators approach to education. Now that's broadly speaking, they are doing some very interesting things. And even at the business school, they've got an online organization within the business school is doing online classes. And they've even speculated that it's not too long from now or an MBA you will get a full MBA from Harvard online, and other institutions as well. You can already get an MBA online from other institutions, but it's creeping its way up the rankings. So, so what does that all mean? If you were to come up with a product strategy now in this big, big market, how would you do it? What would you how what's the approach that you would take?Jared Ranere :
Yeah, I think what's really interesting that you pointed out is all the different customers and all the different jobs. You can really separate hire it out from K through 12 as satisfied serving different customers in different jobs, that you pointed out the MBA, which is really a vocational job, right? How do you become a better business administrator? And you could say general management and talk like a regular person, because nobody really says business administrator. But the difference, the big difference between an MBA or any higher ed and K through 12. Is that higher ed is not mandatory. It's totally voluntary. In K through 12, is mandatory, right? Like if you don't get your kids to school, you are running afoul of the law in some way until they turn a certain age where they can drop out legally. When something's mandated by the government, then the customer changes a little bit, right we can't we can choose which school we send our kids to, but we can't choose to not send them at all. And the customer there is really the government its parent. And those jobs are focused on what the government wants to get done. But when you focus on higher ed, that's totally voluntary. And then it becomes much more about what are the students trying to do? If we look at Harvard, I think it's a really difficult question. So actually, this is interesting. I know I went to higher ed. I got waitlist at Harvard, I went to the University Chicago, and I took myself off the waitlist, but I actually chose UC. I liked it better for a variety of reasons. But why did I go? And my parents spent a lot of money for that choice. They thought it was really important for me to be educated. I had a hunch that it was going to lead to a prosperous career, all signs pointed in that direction. The data shows that if you go to college, and especially if you go to a prestigious university, you're much more likely to have more income later in your life. I wasn't super stressed out about that at the time. I kind of just wanted to learn and that's a very broad job. It leads us to this question of how are what's the competitor analysis here? Right? So how are these institutions helping you learn today? Are they focused on speed? Are they focused on accuracy? And it seems like you just said like, nobody's trying to give you a college degree in six months, they're trying to do it in four years. And that that has become the timetable on which you do it. So it's clear that they've prioritized accuracy. And so the question is, why is the job really to learn? Or is it some higher order job? And is accuracy really the most important part of that?Jay Haynes :
I think those are great questions. And if we were to choose a job to go after in this market, I think the way to do it is to look at what people are struggling with in their lives. You could categorize jobs by very functional stuff you could look at how difficult it is to learn algebra, right or calculus or US history or world history or whatever the subject is, but you could also look at other things about human development. In fact, there are other solutions to this as well, like when you're, you really are trying to learn how to have deeper, more committed more connected relationships with other people. And that actually can be very difficult to do otherwise, there wouldn't be a huge couples therapy industry. And, and interestingly enough, that's a good example of where there's probably a market on relationships. I mean, actually, there is already we have just huge number of self- help books that you can write any bookstore, search Amazon this is like a huge category of books in the United States. And that's because clearly something about our institutional education system is failing people when they're trying to have relationships. It's not surprising what do you need to do to be certified to get to be a parent or get married. Absolutely Nothing. But if you want to get a high school degree, a high school diploma, you have to do all these tests and requirements to like, make sure that you've achieved some educational attainment. If you could start, especially in education, like where are people struggling the most? Is it really like they need you in their lives to know more algebra? Or is it that they need something else that could be along a very different dimension than what educational institutions are teaching them today?Jared Ranere :
I love that question. Because I think we see a lot of data that shows that anxiety is at all time high levels, especially among young people. Loneliness is a huge issue today, in spite of all the social media we have on the internet, and the other thing we know is that wages aren't growing among the middle class as they should be. Now there are systemic reasons for that and there are no legislative reasons. There are capitalist society reasons for that. But is education preparing people to enter the workforce and enjoy wages that grow over time throughout their career? I think that's actually a really important question is What? It's a very, very functional job. Right. You go to school to develop a skill set that can help you have a prosperous career. Is that working right now?Jay Haynes :
Yeah, yeah, that's a, that's a great question. And that this is where also, I think it's so interesting to use jobs-to-be-done. Because if you were to start, you know, looking at education opportunities in, in the, in the market today, you know, if you were to compete with Harvard, you could say, Hey, we're going to teach calculus better or whatever, you know, but you could also say, okay, there's something totally different that people need. A good example of this is just like financial management, because you mentioned wages aren't going up and income inequality is going up. People are more anxious, they're financially stressed. They're also unhealthy. We have a massive obesity epidemic. So, and in one sense, we need to teach people nutrition and health. People just don't even know how to eat. And not surprisingly, because tons of companies throwing absolutely terrible food to them left and right every day. But, if you look at education, for example, like financial management, just like personal financial management. I've taught in MBA programs, and I had an MBA student, very smart guy, he had 14 credit cards. I mean, literally, he was in the classic, like, all he would do is just continue to get more credit cards to pay off his other credit card debt. And he was in this unbelievable downward spiral. And that's actually not surprising when all the stuff that we know about neuroscience where the brain works, and we're not just these rational humans walk around saying, I shouldn't have 14 credit cards because we make these decisions that are clearly detrimental to ourselves to our financial health in his case, and he was a very smart person. He was in an MBA graduate level program. He wasn't uneducated, so right, all throughout whatever educational investment he'd made since he started in kindergarten, they had not prepared him to manage his finances, right? So that's the type of thing that can be huge opportunity. That doesn't seem obvious, but when you start to look at the jobs and in that case, it would be you manage personal finances. There's a huge educational component of it. And that looks like a big opportunity. It's very similar to what we were, in our example of Microsoft Word, like, if you're going to be with Word, you don't create a word processor, right? That'd be the wrong approach, find a job that word processor is hired for it and then build a solution to that. So that's it. I love that example. Because it it's so outside of what Harvard's average is going to teach you wherever it may be any elite institution. They're just they're just going to avoid it because they're so set on. You need to know calculus or US history.Jared Ranere :
Yeah, I think that's super interesting. It's like financial management is a critical thing in your life. Eating well is a critical thing in your life. Figuring out how to get a job or critical things in your life. I think there are two really interesting products or energies to take here. One is to take a narrow job step sort of job and focus on that and pull off the people who are really struggling with that and try to help them learn those things. But it’s a more a lower level of abstraction. As you're talking about that, it reminded me of a fifth-grade teacher that I was talking to the other day, and she was griping about testing and saying similar things like Do we really need to know calculus? Do we need to really need to prepare every citizen society to be ready for calculus in junior senior year and be really great at that? I'm not I don't know. And she always sees her role as helping children develop a love for learning, and generate curiosity and learn how to learn, so that they can develop any skill set so that they can solve their financial management problems, they can learn how to eat well. It's kind of a catch all in creating that foundation for that when I think about when I went to college, they kept telling me, I'm going to learn how to think. And I think that was pretty important.Jay Haynes :
Yeah, it's pretty amazing. I think that's a huge part of it. I also think there's a whole category of learning how to feel. And this isn't just like touchy feely stuff. But because the more we know about neuroscience, and the more we know about the way the brain works, the way emotions work emotions just play this incredibly crucial role. Yes. And we've done a lot of work to bring in emotional jobs as part of the kind of innovation theory in the way we work with companies and how we help them figure out what customers want, because customers are not always rational. They're also very emotional and learning how to feel. And I'll give you a good example of where the science behind this can really help us as well. And, you and I are both parents, my children are a little older than yours. But we both have twins. We jumped into parenting, first and first. And, and when our children were younger, we had one of them that was having tantrums. And my wife and I are both highly educated. We both have advanced graduate degrees and spending an enormous amount of money on our education. And yet, not one minute, not a minute of those years, decades, and combine I don't even know what the amount of money was spent on was insane and our education, not a minute was on how to parent and how, when our children, they're one of them was clearly having troubles. Like when you when you're that young tantrums are basically, you're just you're so young. You don't have any control of your emotion and they're just going haywire. Right? What I find really fascinating is, so the educational job there is to learn how to parent and you could get even more specific about that learn how to manage anger or learn how to teach your children to manage anger. And then there's a great book by the head of the Yale Child Development Program. And what he says in the book is what I find fascinating is that over the past 30 years, we have learned an enormous amount about childhood development and about emotions, and how to teach emotions. And what's fascinating is, it's actually amazingly simple is you have to focus on the positive stuff, and you have to really reinforce the positive stuff. Because telling someone a child in this works even through adulthood, that they're just doing something wrong and criticizing them and being negative and having negative consequences does not work to change their behavior. What works is the positive reinforcement. And the crazy solution that you would never think of is, in other words, the crazy solution to help children not have tantrums is to actually play a game called good tantrums. So, if they have a tantrum that's lower level than the screaming, ah, non-stop, whatever, you give them a reward and say, that was a good tantrum. And they're like, well, that's strange. And then you practice it, you do this behavior practice, where you say, okay, now I'm going to tell you that you have to turn off your iPad and I want you to have a crazy tantrum, even though they're not really having it. But they're have they're practicing, okay, I can control my emotions and I don't need to have a tantrum, and I'll just turn off my iPad, and it works like magic. What's incredible is that still comes as an education as a as a product to do that. It comes in the form of a book. So that is a lot of the education platform if they're still in books. And institutions. And if you look at it from a jobs-to-be-done lens, like what other platform can you use to get the job done? So there's just almost limitless opportunities in education, if you look at it through the jobs to be done lens.Jared Ranere :
Yeah, and I think talking about it like limitless opportunities is a really subtle but crucial way to talk about it. Because I think often, we hear about this in terms of how schools are failing people. And if you talk to teachers that they will tell you, why do more and more of the world's parents put more and more of their own burden on us. We can't raise your kids for you like they they're trying to serve a specific part of your child's life and development. And they need help, right? They need other they need parents to do things they need companies and other institutions to step in and help. We can't put everything on schools, especially because the public schools anyways, are government funded and there's certainly limited resources they have. And they do quite a bit with those resources. And so, I think the reason why I think talking about it like an opportunity is so important is because not necessarily saying this, all the schools should stop doing what they're doing now, and just cease to exist because they're not doing anything. Well. It's saying, let's have them do what they do very well. Let's create new platforms, new opportunities, new products, and new services, to help fill in those areas where people are still struggling to learn and still struggling to educate themselves to prepare themselves for, you know, a happy life. There are a lot of things that go into that. And there's a lot of opportunities. I think that EdTech can go awry, when it's not focused on a job when it just says, we're going to take school and we're going to put it online, but then they don't have a good understanding of what all the needs are in a specific job. They're just doing the general stuff that think that school is doing. And if you talk to any teacher about the EdTech things that people are, they're trying to be sold to them on a daily basis. They're always like, these people have no idea what we're trying to do here. And, and that's what happens when you don't have a specific job in hand, you don't have the job and focus. So anybody who's trying to seize one of these opportunities in education needs to be specific about what they're trying to do. And maybe it's something different from what schools are trying to do.Jay Haynes :
Yeah, I think that's great. There's so many opportunities in this market. It's kind of categories of opportunity. Yeah, I think you're right. One is, I mean, if you're selling to schools, you want to look at what the schools are doing. And there’s a lot of regulatory requirements in that what they're doing. Can you help them do it better? Can you help them do it faster and more accurately, all the good stuff? Can you identify unmet needs, so you'd want to look at teachers there, right as the beneficiary, but then even the other categories, I think are really fascinating too. One of course is like Tech like looking at and we have this bias to because there's so much software in the world just as growing tremendously. And in those cases, you look at what are the new applications? What is new software that can help students and like Khan Academy is a great example of that. But then also, there's really thinking about the problems we have to face profoundly. Like there are communities in the US there are 40 million newly unemployed people from the Corona virus, who are being really, really affected by this. And 65% of the US doesn't have a college education. A huge percentage of those non-college educated part of the population are single moms. So, when you're talking about education, I mean, think about a single non-college educated mom like where is the time in the day what is going to happen. It's all of a sudden, she's just going to take off and be like on this advanced career and be successful and everything we know about the children of non-college educated moms is that our society just completely ignores them. And they have zero economic opportunity. What are you going to do for that community? That's a huge market, by the way, that is a lot of customers and figuring out how to help them and serve them is a giant opportunity. So how would you approach that? Well, creating new software for their kids to do stuff on iPad, that’s just not an approach that's going to help get the job done. Because right, what a non-college educated single mom has to go through is just enormous. You would want to then look more broadly at education and say, we need to think about the community. And these are marginalized communities that don't have the same opportunities. It's that you have to think through education as a piece of the community as being the platform. And that's what I think is really interesting jobs-to-be-done can help even in those big intractable problems. You still have to figure out what that community needs where there are underserved parts of the market segments and where what are their unmet needs? What are they prioritizing? What are they struggling most with? Now the reason it also represents opportunities, because they probably have an enormous amount of struggles with their own education with their children's education. And can we rethink something? I mean, that is not a group of people that we just say, oh, let's just all go get a college education and forgive their college loans. It's so remote from what they're actually likely to do in the short term. We have to rethink what we do as a society and what we do with our platforms, right. Yeah. Education platforms, technology, communities, all those things.Jared Ranere :
Yeah, I think it's that speed and accuracy question, right? Can they get the results of a college education without going somewhere all day, every day for four years? Right? Because you can't be a parent and go somewhere all day, every day for four years and live there right? You have many more responsibilities in your life. So speed becomes critical in this case. In fact, there's a great case study in competing against luck about the University of Southern New Hampshire about adults getting educated and the University of Southern New Hampshire, looking at the specific job they're trying to do. Why the existing solutions don't serve them well, and developing a new way to educate parents who can't go somewhere else who needs to do part of it online, but wants to be a thorough education and want the credentials? So, I would highly recommend people look into that it's a great look at how to use the job to change what you're doing as a university.Jay Haynes :
Yes, that's just to remind people competing against luck is Clay Christensen's book on jobs-to-be-done, which we're big fans of. Rest in peace Clay. That's it. This has been a great discussion. I think if you're in education or thinking about it, being in education these are just enormous opportunities. The approach that we would take of course in this market is first figuring out educating for what you know, what are you trying to do? Who is the job beneficiary? Are you targeting teachers, you targeting to parents, you targeting the students themselves, you know, lots of different potential quote, customers in this market? Even if they're not the purchase decision maker, they're the beneficiary of getting the job done. And then from there, once you know the job, you can really identify the unmet needs and that's that helps you figure out how to productize your innovations. Thanks for listening to our How Would You Beat podcast visit us at thrv.com, that's thrv.com. To get our free How to Guides and try our jobs-to-be-done software for free.