This post discusses a specific aspect of Jobs to be Done. If you haven’t already done so, we suggest starting with the post—What is Jobs To Be Done. This will give you a broad overview of JTBD concepts with links to other posts that take a deeper dive into those concepts.

Say that you launch a new product or service that can help certain individuals get a job done much better than solutions-in-use. Now, to create initial demand for that offering, customers must be pulled away from competing solutions. But, how will you motivate those customers to switch?

All too often it’s assumed that because a product or service offers a significant improvement over competing solutions that customers will recognize the difference and make the switch. But once a new solution is launched, companies are often surprised when customers do not switch as expected, despite being offered a seemingly superior solution. What’s going on here?

Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek introduced a conceptual model around 2012 called the Forces of Progress, which offers insight into customer switching behavior. In his book, Competing Against Luck published in 2016, the late Clayton Christensen positions the Forces of Progress as an extension of Jobs Theory to help explain the dynamics involved when customers hire and fire solutions.

The Forces of Progress is an adaptation of the Force Field Model developed by the late Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist who studied how individuals and organizations change in response to their environment.

Lewin’s model posits that there are two opposing forces that are always in play when trying to change a current situation to a desired future state. First, there’re forces that are pushing for change, which are called driving forces. Second, there’re forces that are resisting change, which are called restraining forces. When the driving forces become stronger than restraining forces, change will happen, else the equilibrium of the current situation will be maintained.

Now, the Forces of Progress is the application of Lewin’s model in the context of customer switching behavior. Here the focus is not on situational change, per se, but rather on the dynamics involved when customers fire a solution-in-use and hire a competing solution that can get a job done better.

Specifically, there’re two driving forces and two restraining forces that surround customer choice like an invisible force field. The Forces of Progress model posits that it’s ultimately the dominant force, either driving or restraining, that determines whether a customer is motivated to switch to a competing solution.

The first driving force has to do with the moments of struggle relating to a solution-in-use. Recall that in a customer’s mind, moments of struggle have different priorities. Some struggles are tolerated for various reasons while others are unacceptable. These high-priority struggles cause customers to push away or reject a solution-in-use. The greater this push force the more motivated customers are to fire that solution.

The second driving force has to do with the attractiveness or positive differential value of a competing solution. That is, the extent to which a competing solution has a better job-solution fit than the solution-in-use. This differential value is like a magnet, so to speak, exerting an attraction or pull force on customers. The greater the pull of a competing solution, the more motivated customers are to hire that solution. Although solution pull is a driving force, it’s positioned on the right side to indicate that it’s an attraction force rather than a repulsion force. To be clear, both push and pull are driving forces.

The Forces of Progress model posits that to create initial customer demand for any new offering or to acquire new customers for an existing offering, those customers must be pulled away from competing solutions-in-use. Simply put, customers must switch to that offering. It should be noted that the premise of switch assumes that competing solutions are exclusive in nature, meaning that only one of those solutions is needed to get a particular job done well.

For exclusive solutions, a switch will only happen if there’s enough push away from a solution-in-use AND enough pull towards a competing solution. Therefore, enough push without enough pull doesn’t create demand. Conversely, enough pull without enough push doesn’t create demand either. Customer demand is created only when there’s enough push AND enough pull forces at work.

Now, working against a switch are two restraining forces. The first restraining force is the anxiety associated with adopting a new solution. Concerns arise such as, “Will the solution work as promised?” and “Can I trust the company selling the solution?” and “Will the new solution cause potential problems or hazards down the road?” The greater the anxieties surrounding the adoption of a new solution, the greater the resistance will be to switch to that solution.

Psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky studied individuals who are faced with a choice that involves giving something up in order to get a potential gain from something new. They found that individuals weight the loss of what’s in hand twice as much as a potential gain.

Applying this to the Forces of Progress, customers can be strongly biased when it comes to firing a current solution and hiring a new solution, even if the new solution can get a job done significantly better. Therefore, solutions-in-use become sticky to the extent that customers have anxiety about switching to a competing solution.

A second restraining force is a well-established habit which involves familiar routines associated with a solution-in-use. It’s been widely studied that individuals are remarkably resistant to changing their habits. The stronger the habit of using a particular solution, the greater the resistance to switching to a new solution. Put another way, a solution-in-use gets stickier to the extent that a competing solution requires a change in established routines to get a job done.

Although habit is a restraining force, it’s positioned on the left side to indicate that customers resist changing established routines that take little to no effort to maintain. As such, a superior competing solution that requires significant change in habit can reduce the differential value of that solution vis a vis the solution-in-use. Therefore, when a competing solution requires some change in established routines, more pull force may be required to overcome the stickiness of habit.

To recap, the two driving forces of push and pull work for a switch. The two restraining forces of habit and anxiety work against a switch. If the driving forces become dominant, customers will fire a solution-in-use and hire a competing solution. If the restraining forces remain dominant, then customers will continue to hire the solution-in-use, rejecting competing solutions. These dynamic forces surround customer choice like an invisible force field.

It would be wise to consider the driving and restraining forces that influence customer switching behavior before designing a new solution or enhancing an existing offering that targets new customers. In fact, business models and solutions should be designed with switching behavior in mind.

But first you need a demand creation opportunity. To find these opportunities, you want to target jobs that are not getting done well with solutions-in-use. Specifically, you’re looking for unacceptable moments of struggle because these are the struggles that create strong push. Tolerated moments of struggle as a whole seldom have enough push to motivate customers to make a switch.

Once enough push is verified, you have a high-potential opportunity. The next step is to design a solution that removes ALL struggles thereby creating a strong pull attraction towards your product or service. Value targets indicate precisely how much pull that’s required to motivate a switch.

You then want to minimize the restraining forces that could work against switch motivation by minimizing customer anxieties about adopting your solution. If habit is a factor, then it may be possible to reduce the stickiness of habit by designing a solution that doesn’t require customers to significantly change established routines OR enables routines to change over time.

Looking at customer switching behavior through the lens of the Forces of Progress explains how a seemingly superior solution can fail to motivate a switch. There are clearly hidden forces surrounding customer choice. You can either leverage these forces to your benefit or ignore them and put your innovation efforts at risk.

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