How to Help People Make New Choices

Jobs-to-be-done forces diagram

Reframing is a powerful tool in business. A small change of posture can make a big difference. The circumstances of our lives may matter less than how we see them, says adman Rory Sutherland. The global pandemic does provide a context of unprecedented scale (at least in my lifetime) to take a look at how we make decisions.

Coronavirus didn't create many of the issues we're confronting today, it accelerated them.

Companies were wrestling with change for a range of issues before—from hiring, working from home (WFH) and open office, to digital transformation, sustainable business models and innovation.

As individuals, communities and countries we were also wrestling with change—patching what's broken at the moment of need, using workaround around policies and rules that are beyond their usefulness, working faster to lose less ground.

Covid19 lockdowns created a pause of global proportions. Experiences vary based on resources and means, community support, policy, rules and roles. Reality can be so fragmented that we agree on little anymore. Yet, there are many things we have in common with each other.

Sociologist Aldo Bonomi says the situation shines a spotlight on the structural gaps in care. Health has become a value again, but the jury is out on valuing it, creating the appropriate structures and allocating resources where they're missing.

Making sense of what's happening

Many agencies and companies have been releasing trend reports. I've been tracking those in my weekly note that goes out every Friday morning. Things will change—f o r e v e r, say some, not at all, say others.

My take is that some choices that changed short term could stick, other mid-range changes will have longer term implications. “Could” gives you room to act. Change happens slowly at first, then all of a sudden. I've seen this happen in several industries.

There are ways to make sense of what's happening, and methods to keep the pulse of what's going on with your customers and markets. Nobody likes to be blindsided. Assuming is close to not knowing and can also be expensive.

Pick up the phone and talk to customers, suppliers, partners and colleagues. Keep checking in on what they're seeing and doing. Stay open minded and ask open questions.

The focus is on how the other person sees and experiences.

Navigating tensions

I worked on the report for the first batch of key themes from conversations that 119 contributors had with 176 people from 35 countries between late March and mid-April 2020. Keeping an open mind and letting the data speak to you is hard work.

We talked to people from Australia to Azerbaijan, India to Israel, Pakistan to Peru. I talked to people in Italy and the USA—participants signed up on the website. The experiences of engineers, audiologists, taxi drivers, housemaids, nurses, executives, comic book illustrators and many more pointed to 7 areas where change could happen:


CONNECTION: Self-reflection and relationships under lockdown: learning to live with uncertainty—People are adjusting their expectations and we’re now seeing new manifestations of fear, hope, and change.

Why we believe this is important:

For many, the COVID-19 crisis feels like THE most important life-changing time of their lives. But that comes with the pressure of having to figure things out when they feel least in control. How might we ensure that individuals have the emotional support they need to get to the other side? What could encourage self-confidence and a growth mindset? Is this new wave of creative and altruistic energy temporary, or will a spark from a few individuals drive change towards a more mindful society?


COMMUNITY: From “me” to “we”—For many, COVID-19 has created a new or renewed sense of community. As this plays out differently between regions, questions still remain about whether it will last.

Why we believe this is important:

While expressed very differently across regions, what we are seeing worldwide is that in times of global crisis, a strong sense of community brings relief in various forms. This opportunity may come from recognizing these shifts in how people now see their social circles and networks, and/or finding ways to support and prolong favorable aspects (which will differ between regions) of this new sense of togetherness.


COLLISION: Work and family life colliding—Productivity, boundaries and family roles are new challenges for those who are now working from home. Working parents juggle both aspects of their lives, but still find unexpected moments of joy.

Why we believe this is important:

There is an opportunity to help people establish new routines, rituals and mental or physical spaces that help them feel in harmony, or develop mechanisms to better deal with an unbalanced reality.


COMMUNICATION: Calling, messaging, video: the new essentials—People are rethinking the role of Calling, messaging, technology in their lives.

Why we believe this is important:

This is a time for technology to shine – to bring people together in a genuine and authentic way. There is an opportunity to better support those who are new to these technologies, and help understand their unarticulated needs.


COPING: Self-acceptance, re-evaluation, the unexpected—People are appreciating themselves and evaluating Self-acceptance, their consumption patterns in the face of change.

Why we believe this is important:

Will buying behavior now shift more towards filling the emotional vacuum and making aspirational purchases? Will the dilemma of whether to live life as previously or to reboot cause businesses to rethink their strategies? A simple question of ‘who am I?’ is perhaps up for deeper introspection.


CLARIFICATION: Roles, responsibilities and rituals—Increased recognition and appreciation for primary front line workers and an awareness about missing human contribution towards climate, physical environment and nature is evident.

Why we believe this is important:

Appreciation, illumination, and de-stigmatization are silver linings of COVID-19. How might we take advantage of the positive changes to create lasting improvements in our societies? Will this restructuring lead to new taboos and social disparities?


CONFIDENCE: Rethinking trust—The volume of news and views is overwhelming. Who Rethinking trust do we trust? What information is helpful? What is the official government line?

Why we believe this is important:

When the power of trust and guidance goes to non-official groups, people grow uncomfortable. They fear that many pretend to help in order to advance their own agendas. Could a crisis like this require us to be more morally flexible and let natural leaders do their job, regardless of their credentials? How might official and underground leaders come together to lead for a greater good?

I've included the headlines, brief explanation and the why we believe this is important, but you should go ahead and read the details. You'll also notice that many themes overlap—fear and trust, technology and people, hope and uncertainty, connection and re-evaluation.

How people are navigating self-others and community-country tensions is also part of context and can influence choices.

Designing conversations to introduce change

The jobs to be done is a concept the late Clay Christensen put forward to explain why we “hire” a product or service. JTBD forces is a tool (see diagram above) I've been using with clients to explore what is and what could be next. Bob Moesta & Chris Spiek have developed a robust set of resources around the concept.

Choices are the product of four main forces. There are things that push you to make a change, because you're not satisfied with the current product or solution. There are things that pull you because they sound pretty good, so you see upside in changing.

But on the other hand, uncertainty makes you cautious, while force of habit or inertia makes you stay with the current way. Think comfort of what I know when so much is destabilizing. It keeps you going with the flow.

To help people make changes and new choices, you want to address the strongest forces that could keep them rooted to the current ways. A brief explanation:

Push — the struggles people are facing in their current situation. These struggles are strong enough to push people to look for and adopt a better way or solution to the job they want to get done.

Pull — the appeal of a new way or solution. This new way looks good enough to attract people into its orbit.

Anxieties — the concerns and uncertainties people have about the new way or solution. Will this get me what I need?

Habit — anything with business as usual that makes it harder to change. For example, is there risk involved?

Every decision is a journey from what I know, buy and use to what I don't know, could be better, yet I'm not sure if it works. Understanding whether people are in progress on that journey is helpful.

In marketing to businesses, that's how we quality leads. Think about who's making purchasing decisions for a company and the parameters they use to make that decision. Can you help them? A simple example:

Push: “We know we've been having trouble getting visibility into who are our customers and prospects are. What we're doing now gets us there, but it's difficult and fragmented.”

Pull: “Using a software that can help us integrate the data we have in separate systems into a central CRM can really help us. We could see what everyone's working on and where we need help and free resources to do other things.”

Anxieties: “Getting marketing to implement the new solution can help us centralize important data, get higher adoption by sales. We can use our company meeting to see how it’s going.”

Inertia: “What do marketing and sales do today that is desirable in the new system? Is there anything they'd miss from the current methods?”

Inertia is corporate habits, a powerful force.

In marketing to customers, that's how we look at potential innovation. Any time you find a place where people are struggling, you can find an opening for something new. Even better if there are no words for what you're inventing.

Struggle is an indication that you care about something, or you wouldn't be after it. As I look at the themes we found with Not Everyday Life, I see many tensions. Conflict is fundamental to change and innovation. Right now, it's everywhere.

Using the JTBD forces framework has helped me study and promote the switch to new ways of doing things.


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