Taj Mahal Hotel

A picture with Clayton Christensen

It was 17 March 2011 and I got a call from my ex-Boss Hari Nair that he was going to meet HBS Professor and the World’s Top Management Thinker Clayton Christensen at theTaj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. This was the same hotel where there was a massive terrorist attack in 2008.


Prof.Christensen is the Co-founder of the consulting firm that I was part of in India and Hari was leading the India Operations of the firm. Hari knows how much I idolize Clay and he was kind enough to extend the invitation to me. Clay had come to attend the TCS board meeting and we had an one hour appointment with him.

On the way to meeting Clay, we realized that we didn’t have a camera and our cell phone cameras(Nokia and Blackberry) were not good enough to get a good picture with Clay. Hari decided to buy a good camera as he settles only for the best. We roamed around Taj Mahal hotel area and we couldn’t find a single shop that sold cameras. We had 40 minutes before our appointment with Clay.After searching for a while, we got tired and we were concerned about the meeting time. We were looking for an answer and suddenly remembered the ‘jobs to be done’ framework pioneered by Clay which we used to advocate for our clients.

The ‘jobs to be done’ framework is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives. Customers rarely make buying decisions around what the “average” customer in their category may do — but they often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. As legendary Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

We asked this question ‘What is the job that we are trying to get done?’. What do we need this camera for? To take pictures with Clay. What tools can help us take a picture with Clay? Photographers, Studios, Cameras, mobile phones etc. Mobile phone and cameras are not an option now. We started looking for studios and after a while, we asked ‘Won’t Taj have a photographer or will they not arrange for a photographer if we want one?’. We almost got the answer. We went to the concierge services at Taj and asked them to help us to get a few pictures. They said ‘With pleasure sir!’. After our meeting with Clay, a photographer came to take a few pictures with Clay and to this day,this picture is one of my prized possessions.

What we were expecting from the Taj was a receipt to collect the pictures at a later date and instead, they had printed the picture, framed it in a way that was way beyond our expectations. They also emailed the pictures to us. What more could we have asked for?

The pictures cost us Rs.350 as against the Rs.10,000 or more we would have spent for a digital camera. Had we got the camera, we would have asked ‘somebody’ who passed by to take a random picture but now, this picture was taken by a professional photographer of Taj Mahal Hotel. The ‘Jobs to be done’ framework taught by Clay saved the day for us and we both went back happily having achieved two things 1. Getting high quality framed pictures with Clay at a very affordable price 2. Practicing what we preached our clients.

Next time, When you are looking for a solution, try asking this question ‘what is the job that I am trying to get done?’ and then, suddenly the number of solutions will seem to be plenty.

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