Lessons Learned from Katie Couric

If successful women build portable skills, and if journalistic chops like those of Katie Couric are ostensibly portable, why has her stint at CBS been such a debacle?

And within the context of ‘daring to dream', is there a lesson to be learned?

As we try and answer this question, there's a framework known as jobs to be done developed by Professor Clayton M. Christensen that I think can be useful.  Rather than trying to understand the typical viewer's characteristics (age, gender, for example), the ‘jobs to be done' framework focuses instead on what job a viewer needs done or what problem she needs solved, and who or what can she hire to do that job.

For example, in Caitlin Flanagan's piece A Woman's Place – Katie Couric's Long Day's Journey into Evening, Flanagan writes that the job that women with small children need done on weekday mornings is “adult conversation”.

When they tuned into Katie Couric on The Today Show, they were hiring Ms. Couric to help fill the time during “one of the most psychologically complex and lonely–and most emotionally fulfilling–times of their lives; their tenure as mothers to small children.”


However, the very same women (the “typical viewer”) who had hired Ms. Couric in the mornings who have nothing but time, time that must be filled, endured, killed — is the person who is in a race against the clock by early evening…

At nine o’clock in the morning, Katie was the personification of The Today Show in its perfected form: not just a television program, but a cheery marker of time, a blessed imposition of structure and order on the disquieting entropy of life at home with children.  But at 6:30 in the evening, she’s a drag….Just one more person who wants something from you…nagging you to be interested—really, really interested—in Anbar province.

The problem that stay-at-home moms with small children need solved (not enough time, too much conversation) in the evening is diametrically opposed to the problem they need solved (too much time, not enough adult conversation) in the morning.

Katie Couric was the right person to solve the morning problem.

At night she has been all wrong.


We can learn some great lessons from Ms. Couric's career.  For example:

When you or I are thinking about starting a new business (whether an Etsy shop or large corporation) or a new job, what problem will we be helping people solve? What job will they be hiring our product to do?

Does the problem that we want to solve for people play to our strengths? If not, is there a job that needs to be done that does?

What do you do if there's a mismatch between the job you were hired to do and the job you want to do?

In your relationships, what job are your loved ones hiring you to do?  And you them?


Related posts:

Now the News: Couric Still Isn't One of the Boys

HBR – How Star Women Build Portable Skills

Play to Your Strengths

What is Your Dream?

Asking and Answering the Big Questions

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