Product Strategy and Innovation Blog

Blue Apron Gets the Job Done Right


Entering a new market is daunting. It’s not often that a first-generation product can get the entire “job” done–that’s a lot to tackle. But in narrowing the focus, what portion of the job should a company target? The answer lies in the job map. By mapping the job-to-be-done, you discover where customers struggle most and where your company can make the greatest impact.

Blue Apron is a start-up that has had success entering a new market. It addresses the job of “cooking a meal.” Its service chooses meals for its customers, ships all the ingredients, and provides directions that are easy to follow. I have subscribed to Blue Apron for a few weeks now. As someone who is not skilled in the kitchen, I had my doubts about whether the system could actually work for me. To my surprise and delight, I found that I was able to cook complex and delicious meals with ease.

Blue Apron’s offering is effective because it targets the planning steps of the job (see job map below). Deciding what to cook can be difficult–but Blue Apron handles that. By providing all the ingredients, they take away the frustration of not having everything at hand. The ingredients come premeasured, which saves time in meal preparation and prevents the build-up of small bags and jars of rarely used items. Because the instructions are easy to follow, preparation is stress free.

Cook a Meal Job Map
A job map is a visual depiction of the functional job deconstructed into its discrete steps. Unlike a process map that shows what customers are doing today (a solutions view), a job map describes what they are trying to get done (a needs view).

The gathering together and preparation of everything you need beforehand corresponds to a practice that professional chefs call mise en place. If adhered to, it helps the rest of the process go more smoothly. Think of any cooking shows you’ve seen. When hosts work with ingredients that are prepped and premeasured, the process looks easy. This is because it is easy–much easier than going through all the laborious chopping, peeling, and dicing that are necessary to get the ingredients ready.

As Blue Apron’s case shows, the planning steps on the job map are a good starting point for innovation because they have a significant impact on the rest of the job. This is true not only for a small service business like Blue Apron, but for complex B2B jobs in industrial and enterprise software verticals, as well. If you decide to target only the execution steps (like many companies do), and the planning steps remain underserved, then your solution may fail to help the customer get the job done better. Targeting the planning steps offers other benefits too. A first-generation product or service focused on the planning steps provides a foothold from which you can address subsequent job steps.

For more information on job mapping, please see the Harvard Business Review article The Customer-Centered Innovation Map.

Perrin Hamilton

Perrin has led and supported client engagements in a diverse range of sectors, including consumer packaged goods, energy, healthcare, education, agriculture, and enterprise software. As an Associate ODI Practitioner, he leads projects that help clients take a customer-centric approach to navigating their most difficult R&D, marketing, and product development challenges. He also coordinates analytical support activities for each project’s success. Perrin previously held Sr. Analyst and Analyst positions at Strategyn, and has entrepreneurial experience from a management role at You Renew, a reverse logistics venture that was acquired by Clover Technologies. He holds a BA from Trinity College, where he was a member of the rowing team, and is an Executive MBA candidate at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

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