Apps, People, and Jobs to Be Done

I read two great interviews tonight, and its the combination of the two that really captures why I’m skeptical about Facebook Home.1

First off was Mark Suster interviewing Clayton Christensen. The interview – as is the case with most things Christensen related – is fascinating and instructive, and well worth a read. However, I want to focus on the idea of “Jobs to be Done.”2

As a general rule, if you have a product that doesn’t get the job done that a customer is needing to get done, then often you have to offer it for zero. Because if you ask for money for it – because if it doesn’t do the job well, they won’t pay for it. So go back in the early years of downloading music. You’ve got Kazaa and a bunch of people – it was free, right? But it was an open, modular system at the beginning, and you had to be a teenager to be able to use this stuff. Adults couldn’t. And Apple came along with a proprietary interdependent architecture. And because they were proprietary and interdependent they could take it all the way from iStore all the way through. People were so delighted to have something that did the job well that they were willing to pay!

This is the key point: people value tools that help them get jobs done; the particulars of the job differ by person, but the means of valuation is universal.

The second piece was this Wired interview with Mark Zuckerberg on the occasion of the launch of Facebook Home. Again, I urge you to read the whole thing, but for the purposes of this article, this quote jumped out at me:

Home turns your phone into a Facebook device. Even with the lock screen on, a photo stream of your friends’ activities fills the screen. Updates appear on your home screen, too. What’s more, Home makes Facebook the primary means of communication on your device. The company’s messaging software merges with SMS, and you can continue using its “chat heads” to text while inside another app. Zuckerberg believes that the social network plays too big a role in its users lives to be drowned out by a vast sea of apps. “Apps aren’t the center of the world,” he says. “People are.”

Apps versus People. According to Zuckerberg, that’s the dichotomy. And he’s wrong. He forgot about jobs to be done.

Here are my (carefully curated) home screens:

My iPhone Home Screens
My iPhone Home Screens

I’m sure few take the time to arrange their home screens so carefully. So ignore that.

Rather, focus on how many of the icons are about “People.” By my count:

  • Dock: 1 (Messaging – the second folder in the dock). You could make an argument for Twitter and email (the fourth folder in the dock), but for me those represent information and work, respectively. Still, three at most, although in the most important spot on my screen.
  • Screen 1: 1 (Facebook)
  • Screen 2: 1 (Contacts)
  • Screen 3: 1 (the Social Networks folder on the third row, which is actually mostly alternative Twitter clients)

That’s four in total across three screens. People matter to me, but I use my phone for so much more.

So what if I consider “Jobs to be Done”?

  • Dock: 4 – Keep current on news, use my phone as a communications device, track my time, track work and logistical information (email)
  • Screen 1: 14 – Access websites directly, take pictures, get directions, track time, calculate numbers, translate Chinese, take notes, check up on friends (mostly my wife), control AppleTV, listen to music, listen to podcasts, track to-dos, read, work on this blog
  • Screen 2: 12 – Get apps, look up words, look for places to eat, look up contact information, look at photos, access my files, check the weather, find new beer, look up scores, look for specific locations, find that web page that I opened from another app, approve my daughter’s jobs-to-be-done (how meta!)
  • Screen 3: 50 – All the other jobs that I do on my phone, albeit too infrequently to take up space on the first two screens; look up travel information; watch video; connect on specific social networks (or switch Twitter clients – again); go directly to specific web pages; waste time; entertain my daughter; entertain my son

Total tally: 151 apps, 80 jobs to be done, 4 foci on people

Apps aren’t the center of the world (or of the preceding sentence, for that matter). But neither are people.

The reason why smartphones rule the world is because they do more jobs for more people in more places than anything in the history of mankind. Facebook Home makes jobs harder to do, in effect demoting them to the folders on my third screen.

Who is Facebook to prioritize my jobs?

  1. Beyond being skeptical about addressable markets for the First, Facebook and Mobile, or Facebook versus mobile-native OTT messaging apps like LINE, of course 

  2. I wrote extensively about disruption theory, of which “Jobs-to-be-done” is a part, in “Apple and the Innovator’s Dilemma“