Hiring OnStar: A Case Study on the Jobs to Be Done Theory

OnStar started as an unlikely initiative inside of an unlikely corporation (GM) with an unlikely leader unprepared for the challenges of pursuing fundamentally disruptive growth. With an insidiously open-ended technology platform and no existing market category to reference or benchmark, the range of possible feature claims seemed limitless. To a car full-line company looking to support individually differentiated positions of wildly different vehicle brands (Chevrolet to Cadillac) and vehicle types (compact cars to massive SUVs and Pickups), limitless seemed very attractive. From concierge services to sending tow trucks, from tracking stolen vehicles to providing driving tours of historic sites, and from sending help to crash sites to scheduling oil changes, the longer the list the better. The good news was the more the number of “cool things” that OnStar could do, the more that could be added to the brochures of GM’s roughly 50 vehicle nameplates. The Swiss Army Knife of the auto industry.

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The only problem was that real people really didn’t need the OnStar Knife. It confused them, simultaneously seemed like too much and too little, and resulted in an extremely muddled brand position. Internally, it was also extremely difficult to effectively operationalize such a wide range of disparate services, and ended up confusing the priorities imbedded in OnStar’s future roadmaps. Success only came after an unnecessarily long and frustrating process of operating without a Jobs compass, when strong feedback from OnStar’s customers set them on the powerfully clear path of delivering “Peace of Mind” while driving.

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