Progress Hurdles

A progress hurdle is a factor that, if perceived as too high by a seeker, may lead them to decide not to start, or to abandon, a progress attempt. According to the engagement decision process, the seeker uniquely and phenomenologically determines if the hurdles are low enough.

The six identified hurdles in the progress economy are:

hurdledescription
lack of resourceis there a lack of resource that will hinder progress
adoptabilitycan the progress seeker readily see themselves using the proposition
resistancewill the progress seeker postpone, reject, or worse, oppose the proposition
misalignment on continuumhow far apart, on the progress continuum, are the proposition and the seeker’s wishes
lack of confidencedoes seeker trust proposition and/or helper
effort elsewherehow many service credits does a progress seeker need to get from elsewhere to engage proposition
The six progress hurdes that a seeker must uniquely and phenomenologically judge to be low enough in order to start/continue making a progress attempt with a particular progress proposition

We call them hurdles rather than barriers since they are not absolute blockers. Some seekers may see them as high yet still decide to attempt progress anyway.

And, as you may recall, this is how we see the emergence of progress propositions. Where a seeker lacks resources but attempts to progress anyway. If they are successful, they gain new resources such as skills and knowledge. And they may then try to benefit by offering those resources as a proposition. That is, they offer to lower the lack of resource progress hurdle for other seekers.

However, the act of offering a proposition introduces the five additional progress hurdles shown in the table above – adoptability, resistance, etc. And it could be the case that a proposition still leaves an, albeit reduced, lack of resource progress hurdle. Or even introduce new lack of resources.

Reducing these hurdle for a proposition is a rich zone for innovation.

And it’s interesting to note that a seeker’s view of these hurdles evolve during progress attempts. That’s why they are part of each decision point in the engagement decision process.

Right, let’s look at each of these hurdles in turn, starting with lack of seeker’s resources.

Lack of seeker resources

Lack of resource progress hurdle: does the seeker have access to the necessary resources required to progress

The lack of resource progress hurdle is the original progress hurdle. Something we identified in the progress decision process.

Imagine a world with no goods or education. In such a world, progress is very limited. Seekers have a substantial lack of resource progress hurdle. Where typical resources a seeker has are knowledge, skills, time, any operand resources they can find.

And typical resources they may lack are knowledge, skills, time, operand resources, series of activities to progress.

There’s some overlap between those two lists.

Progress proposition offer supplementary resources that the seeker can integrate with during activities involved in attempting to make progress. The intention is to lower this lack of resource progress hurdle. With the seeker and helper resources integrating during the progress activities.

Progress Zip Tool
Progress Zip Tool

A progress helper offers these resources as a progress resource mix – a proposition specific collection, including none, of employees, systems, goods and physical resources.

progress proposition = progress resource mix + proposed series of activities

Helpers frequently propose the series of activities required to make the progress offered using their offered resources. This addresses any lack of resource (knowledge, in this case) regarding how to progress. Although seekers may chose to ignore the proposed actions. For example, how many of us read the instructions that cone with a new oven? But ignoring proposed activities may lead to value co-destruction with progress being abandoned.

And a helper may decide to structure their proposal as a relieving proposition to address any lack of time as a resource. This is best viewed through the misalignment on continuum progress hurdle.

Considerations

Whilst a key aim of progress propositions is to lower this lack of resource hurdle, they may not do so fully. Which may or not be an issue for seekers.

And a proposition may even introduce a new lack of resources. For example, offering me a subscription service to an aircraft so I can fly myself from point A to point B is only useful to me if I know how to fly.

It’s worth noting that enabling propositions, on the progress continuum, often Introducing new lack of resources. These typically offer a goods-heavy mix. Which places higher skills/knowledge requirement on seeker than a comparable relieving mix. They also typically require additional propositions to be integrated together by the seeker for progress to be made.

Once a helper offers a proposition, the seeker needs to feel that they are able to use it. And that’s our next hurdle: adoptability.

Adoptability of the Proposition

Adoptability progress hurdle: does the progress seeker feel they are able to use the proposition

Seekers need to feel the proposition is something they are able to use.

Offering me a mini-nuclear reactor to provide my power needs is not something I can envisage myself doing. Even if back in 1963 Sweden was seemingly heading that way. It is somewhat complex and doesn’t give me much advantage over attaching solar panels or connecting to the national power grid.

Luckily, we can leverage the work of Rogers here. In ”Diffusion of Innovations” he identified several factors that speed up adoption of innovations. And we’ll co-opt adopting an innovation as deciding to engage with a proposition.

Which effectively implies a seeker needs to adopt each time they engage. This is not too far-fetched. And is somewhat analogous to Christensen’s big and little hires in his job to be done theory.

Here are Rogers’ factors:

Rogers’ factors that affect adoption speed of innovation.
We repurpose these as factors affecting the adoption hurdle

Presently we’ll only be concerned with the perceived attributes factor. The other factors might be found important as we continue to explore the progress economy. Though a helper may have less influence on those outside of a b2b context (where progress can be through projects with activities captured in contracts).

These attributes are:

  1. Relative advantage
  2. Compatibility
  3. Complexity
  4. Trialability
  5. Observability

We’ll briefly explore each of these in the context of progress propositions. And of course we need to keep in mind Rogers was concerned about speed of adoption across a social network. Whereas we are thinking about an individual actors decision to engage.

Relative advantage

Rogers stipulates that the relative advantage a new innovation has compared to existing approaches accelerates its adoption in a social network. And in the progress economy we can say relative advantage means making progress better and/or better progress.

“Better”, of course, being a unique and phenomenological judgement of progress seekers. Which relates to the progress potential (functional, non-functional and context) they see as well as the progress hurdles being low enough.

If a proposition doesn’t have a relative advantage to a progress seeker, they are less likely to engage it.

Compatibility

The more compatible an innovation / progress proposition is with seekers existing lived experience the quicker it will be adopted across a social system. And similarly the lower the adoption progress hurdle will be.

Classically innovation writers talk about computer keyboards having a QWERTY layout. There’s no technical reason why this is so. But they are compatible to type-writing machines (where QWERTY layout reduced collisions between hammers printing on paper). And that compatibility eases adoption.

Imagine that you are going to offer a proposition in the metaverse that requires text input. I’d imagine you’re going to provide an interface similar to a virtual QWERTY keyboard…

There’s a risk that compatibility gets interpreted as a constraint on innovation / new propositions. It’s not meant to be. Rather, observe it as a hurdle and identify how you can minimise that.

Complexity

If a proposition is too complex to engage then a seeker may decide not to use it to progress. Or, perhaps more likely, they abandon underway progress attempts as they find the proposition too complex when engaging.

This part of the hurdle talks to the helper needing to initially determine how to reduce complexity. And then having a dialogic approach during progress attempts to minimise resource misuse (due to complexity).

Trialability

Allowing a seeker to trial engaging a proposition can lead to lowering the adoptability hurdle.

Although unsupervised trialing can do the opposite if the seeker gets frustrated in the trail.

Observability

Finally, if the seeker can observe the proposition being engaged by others in their social network the adoptability hurdle should be reduced.

Considerations

These adoptability factors have lasted the test of time. But they need to be seen in context of progress sought.

And here’s an interesting example around complexity. Above we see that complexity should, in general, be minimised. However, consider the interface of the popular Snapchat photo sharing application.

For most adults, Snapchat’s interface is complex and somewhat confusing. However, teenage users enjoy it, not least because it keeps Mum and Dad from joining.

Our example above, of the adoptability of nuclear power unit for apartments, leads us to our next progress hurdle – resistance

Resistance to the Proposition

Resistance progress hurdle: will the seeker postpone, reject, or even protest against a progress proposition due to perceived risks, usage, traditions & norms and/or perceived inages

What’s your first reaction to the proposition of building a small nuclear power plant in everyone’s houses to supply power?

I’d imagine many would say no thanks. Some might say yes please. Others would want to wait. And some would be very against the proposition.

This is an example of the resistance hierarchy: none, postponement, rejection and opposition.

And Kleijnen et al, who identified this hierarchy, also summerised several factors that lead to the different levels of resistance (see “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents“). These are shown in the following picture.

Kleijnen et al’s factors involved in resistance to innovations and their resistance hierarchy
These are the factors involved in the resistance hurdle

One factor is a collection of risks that are physical, economic, functional, and social in nature. Traditions and norms, usage patterns, and perceived image are the remaining factors.

And there are mappings between factors and types of resistance. Physical risk, for example – will this proposition physically harm me – generates opposition. Other factors contribute to different types of resistance.

You can already begin to map those who resist the at home nuclear plant proposal to these factors. But let’s explore the factors a little more.

Risks

Risks must be minimized in order to persuade the progress seeker that the resistance hurdle is low enough to engage the proposition. And the resistance hierarchy sees the four risks listed in the table below.

riskdescription
physicalwill this proposition unintentionally physically harm me or others?
economicwill I waste service credits?
functionalcan I make the progress offered?
socialam I going to look/feel silly when using this proposition? or am I going to create a social situation if engaging with this proposition?

I’m sure you’ll agree that few of us will engage with a proposition that will intentionally cause physical harm to ourselves or others. It’s not impossible though. Certain medical procedures do indeed cause harm (loss of function). But they happen for a wider benefit. And there are also, sadly, other propositions that harm others, such as those used in warfare.

The functional risk is similar enough to the concept of progress potential that we can ignore for now.

And economic risk, whilst related, should not be confused with the next progress hurdle we consider(service elsewhere). We are specifically addressing the seekers’ concern that their investment will not be wasted. Will the proposition be phased out soon, for example? Or does it necessitate integration with other propositions that do not yet exist?

Finally, there is social risk. So, am I going to look/feel ridiculous? Or will this proposal cause an awkward social situation? An example would be the first version of Google Glass and the glassholes who became known for their anti-social or creepy behaviour . This is also a good example to introduce the following factor.

Traditions & Norms

Tradition & norms – the Inherited body of customs and beliefs within a relevant social context

Kleijnen et al (2009) “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents

In addition to being a social risk, the first edition of Google Glass defied conventions and norms. See the above definition. Next to nobody wants to be talking to someone who is secretly recording them.

Every social context has a body of customs and beliefs. And a proposition that goes against those increases the rejection progress hurdle.

But the key word here is context. Google Glass failed because, among other things, the inventors, and the small handful of users, were unable to understand social context. Snap, on the other hand, also provided photo-taking glasses. However, they were primarily designed and marketed for the social context of groups of friends having fun and recording that. One proposition was rejected, while the other encountered little opposition.

Usage Patterns

Usage patterns – the habitual behaviour formed when using a product frequently over time

Kleijnen et al (2009) “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents

Are you familiar with the Luddites? They perhaps belong in the preceding section because their resistance resulted in outright opposition through the destruction of machinery. But we’ll use them here because they’re also a good anecdote about change. Which is really what the usage patterns is about.

Back in 1779 a group of skilled artisan textile workers rioted in Manchester, UK. Their grievance was the impact on their livelihoods by factory owners introducing mechanical looms. It’s a story about change. For a long time textiles had been created the same way by these skilled artisans. Now factory owners could employ cheap labour instead due to automation.

Back in 1779, a group of skilled artisan textile workers rioted in Manchester, UK. Their grievance was the impact of factory owners introducing mechanical looms on their livelihoods. It’s a story about change management. Or rather a failure in change management. For a long time, these skilled artisans produced textiles in the same manner. Because of automation, factory owners could now hire cheap labour instead.

Despite attempts by workers to negotiate a way to manage the change, factory owners persisted. Eventually the Luddites rioted and started smashing the mechanical looms. They also acquired the slightly incorrect reputation of being anti-technology.

And Kleijnen et al. summarised that there is resistance to innovations that contradict habitual behaviour. This, we contend, holds true for propositions. They must either follow usage patterns. Alternatively, the progress helper must attempt to manage the change. If not then the resistance hurdle remains high in the eyes of seekers.

Perceived Image

Perceived image – the unique set of associations within the minds of customers based on e.g. the product category the innovation belongs to, the manufacturer that produces it, or the country that produces it

Kleijnen et al (2009) “An exploration of consumer resistance to innovation and its antecedents

The perceived image hints at brands. Something we’ll cover in the confidence progress hurdle.

In short, the resistance hurdle is higher for a helper offering progress where common perception within a society is not expecting them.

The best kitchen knives, for example, are perceived the world over as being made in Japan. A knife maker from Chad, just a randomly picked country here, is going to struggle to lower this hurdle. Or Northampton based shoe makers are seen as strong brands. But if they started offering saucepans there would likely be a strong rejection of the proposition.

Mis-alignment on the progress continuum between Proposition and seeker’s desire

Misalignment on continuum progress hurdle: how far apart on progress continuum – of enabling to relieving propositions – are the proposition and what the seeker is looking for

Our next hurdle concerns itself with the progress continuum. That tells us all propositions fit somewhere between an enabling and a relieving service. The differentiator being who drives the activities. Towards the relieving end it is the helper driving activities. Whereas towards the enabling end it is the seeker.

Service-Service Continuum tool
The Service-Service Continuum tool showing a continuum from enabling to relieving propositions along with some examples of impacts on functional and non-functional progress depending on offer positioning on the continuum.

Why is this important? Well, imagine you, as a seeker, prefer a relieving service to help you make some progress. When you look at a proposition and see it is an enabling proposition, then you encounter a misalignment on the continuum progress hurdle. And the height of that hurdle relates to how far apart the proposition and your wishes are.

As always don’t forget, this is not a barrier, it is a hurdle. You might still decide to engage. Or you might look at other propositions with a lower hurdle.

And the reason why this is a hurdle is because positioning on the continuum often reflects non-functional progress sought. An enabling progression, for example, favours seeking self-actualisation. Or being able to make progress when they want to. But it comes with a higher reliance on the seeker being skilled.

Whereas an offering closer to the relieving proposition end lowers the skill level needed of seeker. And reduces risk of failure. But it doesn’t help a seeker fulfil a sense of self-achievement, so it may be frustrating.

Lack of Confidence in the Proposition

a progress seeker should have confidence that the progress proposition (and progress helper) can help them make the progressed offered

Seekers must have confidence that an offering will assist them in making progress. In both the actual proposition and in the helper. And this usually starts based on the seeker’s individual lived experience.

That’s to say, prior interactions with the helper and/or offering, or similar offering, can provide confidence. And if they are now attempting to make same progress again with same helper, this is what Christensen’s job to be done theory calls a little hire.

Confidence could also result from making progress in other areas with the same assistant. In that case, we’re talking about branding and brand extension.

Of course, the opposite is true as well. Poor helper experience reduces a seeker’s future confidence.

And while making progress, one’s confidence can rise or fall. This emphasises the importance of continuous communication throughout the progress attempt.

Seeker’s effort required elsewhere to gain asked for service credits

Effort elsewhere progress hurdle: a progress seeker needs to feel they are not being asked to perform too much effort (service) elsewhere in order to gain the asked for service credits to engage a progress proposition

Finally, we’ve reached our sixth progress hurdle. And, to put it simply, we’re talking about price. However, we must consider it in the context of service-dominant logic, which can make it appear more complicated. But it’s worthwhile understanding because it helps us explain and explore business model innovation.

The key take-away is that price signals the amount of effort a seeker needs to give elsewhere in terms of service.

The issue with price is it implies a value-in-exchange moment. A manufacturer embeds value in a product and sets the price of that. A consumer then hands over cash to the amount of the price. And in return gets the product with the embedded value.

In the progress economy, with it’s foundations on service-dominant logic, there is no value-in-exchange moment. For us, value relates to progress (potential and achieved). As such value is created as the activities in a proposition are executed (so caleed value-in-use). Price still exists though. But it can no longer represent a measure of value.

So what does price represent? Well to explain that we need to start with what service-dominant logic informs us

Price, effort and service credits

To understand price we start with two fundamental premises of service dominant logic:

Service is the fundamental basis of exchange

Indirect exchange masks the fundamental basis of exchange

Foundational premises  and 2 of service dominant logic

These can be unpacked as follows. First, rather than exchanging cash for outputs, we always exchange services. To put another way, you do something for me, and I do something for you.

However, this exchange may not be so direct. Which we can explain like this: you work for a company which is really ou providing them a service. But you don’t really need the service they offer in return. What you want is service from an electric company, and entertainment companies, plus shopping services for food items and clothes etc. There is service exchange, it’s just not direct.

And, this indirect exchange may not happen at the same time. Additionally it may not be of the same magnitude. Your service to your employer, for example is of a different size to that which Netflix gives you.

The secret to greasing these different magnitude, different time, indirect exchanges is service credits.

Each proposition signals the number of service credits (price) it requires in order for a seeker to engage with it. And that indicates to a seeker how much effort they need to give in service elsewhere to gain the credits required for the service they want.

It just so happens that cash has been the most enduring implication of service credits to date.

Understanding the hurdle

So this hurdle is about the seeker uniquely and phenomenologically determining that the effort of service they need to give elsewhere is low enough to engage the proposition.

And lowering this hurdle can be achieved in various ways. First the price is likely made up from the service credits requested by constituent elements of the entity/ecosystem. So, they could be replaced by elements that request less service credits.

We could also reduce the progress offered. That should reduce the effort required in the proposition. And therefore the service credits requested.

Alternatively we could look to business model innovation to reduce service credits required from seeker by replacing some/all from another entity -freemium, sponsored models, etc. Or to reduce the emotional magnitude through subscription or family sharing models etc.

And in larger propositions, handing over service credits may be tied to milestones of reaching certain amounts of progress.

Considerations

Whilst the general intention would be to lower this hurdle to the minimum, we must appreciate we live in a capitalist world. Profit is not an ugly word. In our model it is simply additional service credits requested beyond those needed to be given to constituent elements of the proposition.

And number of service credits requested follows supply/demand models. Helpers will try to get as many as they can. Whilst seekers make the judgement if they are willing to give effort elsewhere to get the progress offered. If they are not, then they don’ engage with the proposition. And if enough do not engage either the helper needs to lower the hurdle or withdraw the proposition.

[todo: is this useful, on paying = pain: https://smith.queensu.ca/insight/content/cash_is_the_king_of_pain.php ]

What about inconvenience?

One hurdle you might argue is missing is “inconvenience”. A service that is inconvenient is less likely to be engaged, surely.

But, what is convenience? Intuitively we might say it is something that saves us time and effort. Farquhar and Rowley have a detailed discussion on this question, arriving at the following definition:

The convenience of a service is a judgement made by consumers according to their sense of control over the management, utilization and conversion of their time and effort in achieving their goals associated with access to and use of the service.

Farquhar, J. D. and Rowley, J. (2009) “Convenience: a services perspectivehttps://solvinnov.com/literature/convenience-a-services-perspective/

They subtly shift the intuitive definition from a property of a service to seekers having “control over their expenditure of their resources and that allow them to gain value in use of the services in achieving goals”. These are the hurdles we have just discussed.

Innovation opportunities

And we can reduce hurdle size through seeing each hurdle as a zone for innovation.

hurdleinsight and innovation
lack of resourcePropositions exist to minimise seekers’ lack of resource. But propositions may not completely do so…or may introduce new gaps (for example knowledge of how to use resources provided)
This is innovation in a traditional sense – incremental, radical, disruptive – helping more/new customers make progress they couldn’t before.
adoptabilityLeveraging Rogers’ traditional adoption of innovation theory to speed up adoption and increase more seekers engaging.
Innovating to improve perceived attributes (relative advantage, compatibility, complexity etc), and messaging (communication channels/nature of social network – take advantage of network topology, influencers, mavens etc).
resistanceA perhaps missed attribute of adoptability – ensuring innovations have minimal resistance with seekers. About positioning, for example Google glassholes vs Snap Spectacles v2.
misalignmentUnderstanding where seekers are (and want to be) on the service-service continuum.
Innovation is often more towards relieving service (often called “servitization” and referred to as a “shift to the service economy”). Though it can go the other way – towards enabling service – where sufficient seekers are seeking self-actualisation to make a market.
confidenceBrand, brand extension, Christensen’s big/little hire
effort elsewhereExplains the “worth” of the proposition in terms of feeling and for comparison.
Innovation focusses on reducing the service credits required. It is business model and ecosystem innovation.

Naturally, some innovations will address more than one hurdle.

Wrapping up

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