Outcome driven innovation - Doug Blue, Seek - Leading The Product

Outcome driven innovation – Doug Blue, Seek

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Doug Blue

Doug Blue explains how job seeking website Seek has evolved to a product culture of outcome driven innovation.

A digital product manager with over 15 years of experience, Doug Blue is now Product Director at jobs-website extraordinaire Seek.

In his presentation at Sydney’s Leading the Product Conference, Doug shared how Seek evolved from a simple jobs listing platform and why it now uses outcome driven innovation.

“Seek was founded in Australia with the premise of helping people to find jobs in a better way than print classifieds. The process was painful back then – you couldn’t even look nationally for a job. Seek saw an opportunity to disrupt – by putting all job ads in one place and all job seekers in one place.”

Once Seek had established market share within Australia, the company leveraged its leading position in Australia to expand into learning and education, to expand geographically and to invest in businesses across the globe.

With cemented market share and diversity, it was now time to evolve and innovate.  Doug explained that innovation was important to stay ahead of global competitors and new innovators such as LinkedIn who were fast encroaching on the job advertisement space.

Seeking innovation

Initially, the main role of Seek was to help people find jobs. They then realised it was about finding people the right job. There was a bigger job to be done for customers.

“Seek changed its long-term purpose to help people to get into the right job and help them to lead more fulfilling working lives. This in turn helps organisations to succeed.” explains Doug. “Four out of five Australians aren’t happy at work. Seek helps them to find the right job and live up to their potential.”

When looking to innovate, the team at Seek asked themselves the questions:

  • What are our high level goals?
  • Where in the market do we want to be?
  • How do we win?
  • What do we need to do in order to win?

A shift was needed, which resulted in the evolution towards outcome driven innovation.

Examples of outcome driven innovation

“The famous example from Henry Ford is that he is remembered for saying “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘A faster horse’.” says Doug.

Henry Ford understood that the what people wanted was two outcomes – to get from A to B faster and to have to deal with less horse crap!

Similarly, Apple’s Steve Jobs understood the people were ready for ‘magic in their pocket’, which led to the iPhone.

Doug reminded the conference audience that you should always ‘crawl into the skin of your customer and ask why they do things,’ sharing Clayton Christensen’s famous milkshake marketing example, which discovered the reason some people purchased a thickshake was so that they could eat and drive, but also because it helped to kill time. The outcome of this study resulted in thicker milkshakes.

Establishing areas for innovation

At Seek, the challenge was to decipher the higher needs of the customers who were using the platform. They did this by focusing on candidates and then recruiters / hirers.

On both counts, Doug explained that outcome driven innovation reduces the risk of product innovation and increases the probability of success.

Seek devised a survey for both candidates and recruiters, asking people in relation to different scenarios – how important is this to you and how satisfied are you in our delivery?

doug blue
Which user needs are not being met?

Using the results, Doug and his team were able to identify where needs were appropriately served and which important needs weren’t actually being satisfied. “If you can execute and deliver on these needs, this is a great way to innovate”.

After identifying the jobs to be done, the Seek team executed a new strategy for each of their customer bases, focusing on the outcome.

Case Study # 1 – Candidates

Feedback identified that candidates didn’t just want any job, they wanted the right job. They wanted to understand companies and guide their own career but their biggest problem was that they didn’t know what it would be like to work for a company.

The solution – company reviews. Starting with a lean, hypothesis driven approach, Doug and his team found that people were happy to share information about their past employers. Within a few months of delivering company reviews as part of the Seek platform, Seek had more online reviews than its nearest competitors.

“The vision / planned outcome was to help people make better decisions” says Doug, “and customer reviews is helping us to achieve that.”

Case Study #2 Recruiters

Seek’s user surveys showed an unmet need – it was taking too long to deal with irrelevant candidates. The success of the Seek platform meant avalanches of job applicants, many of whom weren’t qualified.

Seek saw that there was a ‘high opportunity’ and looked to see what they could do on a unique level to fill this gap. The solution in this instance was to allow hirers a faster way to identify and discard unsuitable or poor candidates.

Questionnaires were implemented that recruiters could create as part of posting a new listing. For example, a candidate might be required to answer whether or not they have a forklift license. If the answer is no, that will show up lower in the applicant results. The same applied for chartered accountants, jobs requiring MBAs, and so on.

To help a recruiter be able to spend less time looking for that ‘needle in a haystack’, these pre-application questionnaires were proven to be an effective strategy. Instead of receiving applications simply by when they were submitted, an algorithm suggested the most suitable applicants first.

“The result was a 50% reduction in time it takes to shortlist candidates. We had met the unmet need, which was very exciting,” explains Doug.

Key Takeaways

Doug’s final advice to the product manager audience in Sydney:

  • Conduct upfront interviews with customers. Watch them using your product to find out more
  • Involve all the team – if everyone is contributing it can be faster to come up with a solution
  • Watch question construct – this is an art, not a science, Seek had to iterate the survey questions it asked its users more than once to get the answers that they were looking for
  • Remember intent – a proxy is a proxy. Seek now measures placements, not ads and applications
  • Embed questions on an ongoing basis in order to continue to gather metrics


  • Skip the qualitative
  • Worry if clusters don’t make sense at first
  • Ask too many questions in your surveys – this creates survey fatigue
  • Forget to feed the information you gather into metrics
  • Fully outsource – if you hand research over to a third party you’re losing core IP that you can use to feed your roadmap

Handy link: Jobs to be done framework http://innovatorstoolkit.com/content/technique-1-jobs-be-done


doug blue
Leading the Product SketchNotes by Rebecca Jackson

About Doug

Doug Blue is an experienced senior leader within the online media space. His interest is in capturing the hearts and minds of customers through high quality product innovation and business execution in order to generate business reults.

Doug’s experience across industries extends to online media, nuclear engineering, IT services and music.

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