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Who Cares What Patients Read in Waiting Rooms?

Chris Spiek // 03.22.13

This video is a great opportunity to see Clay speak about Jobs-to-be-Done, and the magazine/smartphone example that was given by David Skok was an effective and easy-to-understand story.  But after hearing the example, I couldn’t help but think, “who cares what patients do in waiting rooms?”

A person in a waiting room at a doctor’s office can have any number of “jobs to do,” but the jobs are only important to me if I’m developing a product in the space that is connected to the it.

In other words, I don’t necessarily care that more people are using their smartphones in doctor’s offices and reading less magazines, unless I’m a magazine publisher (for example).

And even if I’m the publisher of the magazine, the information might not be terribly valuable to me. See, the person hiring or not hiring the magazine in the doctor’s waiting room isn’t the same person that is buying or subscribing to the magazine.

To bring this story full-circle, there are a few things that I’d want to know before I started to value the information:

  • Who in a doctor’s office is responsible for making sure there are magazines available for the patients to read while waiting, and what are the “job dimensions” that must be met for their job?  (e.g. topical variety may be important, but newness might not be).
  • Has the publishing company that I’m working for been affected by this magazine-to-smartphone shift in a measurable way (or even intuitively)?  If not, I may be digging in the wrong place and the doctor’s office isn’t the right place to look for possible magazine innovations.

Big thanks to the Nieman Foundation and Harvard University for making this video available, and thanks to Clay and David for giving us a good example to discuss and explore!

  • Chris York

    It seems to me that the job to be done in this case is entertainment for the patients while they wait for the doctor. This entertainer job only exists because the main part of the business is inefficient. If there were no wait time and you were seen at the time when you arrived, then this job would disappear. Is focusing on a temporary job to be done the right thing to do, or should eliminating the job altogether be the focus?

    • chriscbs

      It depends on who’s perspective you’re taking. The wait in the waiting room makes the business efficient for the doctor, but not for the consumer (patient). Eliminating the wait makes the business inefficient (there is now a high-value asset/doctor idle and not making money if a patient shows up late). For that reason there isn’t an incentive for the doctor to eliminate the wait, unless it crosses a threshold and starts to affect the business, e.g. people switch away because the wait times are so ridiculously long.

      If we accept that some level of wait-time will exist, and it’s up to the consumer to choose how to fill it (entertain me, let me catch up on work emails, have a quick phone call), then it is only important to us if we’re in a business that could potentially capitalize on that slice of time. “How do we get people to stop what they’re doing in that slice of time, and start buying/using our product instead.”