Put jobs-to-be-done theory into practice
Jobs-to-be-done theory is straightforward: companies win in the marketplace when they create products and services that help customers get their jobs done better and/or more cheaply than competing solutions. The key to success in applying this theory is the ability to correctly define the job-to-be-done and the metrics customers use to measure the successful execution of that job (these metrics are specialized need statements we call desired outcomes). Since 1991, Strategyn and innovation expert Tony Ulwick have been at the forefront of transforming jobs-to-be-done theory into a predictable innovation process.
Strategyn’s first major success applying the jobs-to-be-done methodology came in 1994 when we helped Cordis Corporation reinvent its line of angioplasty balloon products. By understanding the job that interventional cardiologists were trying to get done (restore blood flow in an artery), we discovered a number of hidden growth opportunities and conducted a series of strategy sessions to help Cordis create a new product line. In less than 18 months, the company launched 19 new products, all of which became number 1 or 2 in the market. Cordis’ market share increased from 1 percent to more than 20 percent, and its stock price more than quadrupled. This success and the process we used to achieve it was showcased in the 2002 Harvard Business Review article Turn Customer Input into Innovation.
Since that initial success, we have made 20-plus years of improvements to our comprehensive innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI). In 2000 we had the distinct honor of introducing ODI to Clayton Christensen. He went on to introduce what he called “jobs-to-be-done” theory in his book The Innovator’s Solution citing Strategyn’s work in job and outcome-based thinking, market segmentation and the ODI process. Since that time, and with Clay’s ongoing contributions, jobs-to-be-done theory has gone mainstream.
Through the successful application of jobs-to-be-done theory over the years, we’ve helped hundreds of product teams create new products and services with a success rate that that is five times the industry average. The approach has been effective in Fortune 1000 firms, SME, startups, and non-profit organizations. Learn more in the seminal jobs-to-be-done book by Tony Ulwick, What Customers Want.
“Innovation can be far more predictable—and far more profitable—if you start by identifying the jobs that customers are struggling to get done”. Clayton Christensen
Bring jobs-to-be-done theory to life
To get acquainted with Strategyn, jobs-to-be-done thinking and ODI, we invite you to schedule a one-day Jobs-To-Be-Done Workshop and apply ODI to address a specific market challenge. In this workshop, we guide your team through a unique innovation journey, helping them interact with their customers to: (1) define the customer’s job-to-be-done, (2) construct a job map that reveals hidden growth opportunities, (3) formulate a unique market strategy, and (4) envision the ultimate, breakthrough solution. Using the jobs-to-be-done interview techniques we popularized in the seminal article The Customer-Centered Innovation Map, (Harvard Business Review, May 2008), we inspire your team to grow its core markets and discover attractive adjacencies.
Call us at 855-584-2212 to learn more about this transformational Strategyn offering. With everything from workshops to market and product strategy initiatives to customized innovation programs and training, Strategyn can help your company put jobs-to-be-done theory into practice.
Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework For Innovation
Uncovering all the customer needs in a market is extremely difficult. The jobs-to-be-done theory advances the innovation process because it makes it possible to know all the customer needs in both existing and new markets. A job-to-be-done has a beginning and an end. As such, it can be analyzed as a process: it can be broken down into process steps and analyzed, using six-sigma-like thinking, to see where customers struggle to get the job done. (See the jobs-to-be-done framework.)
It turns out that customers use between 50 and 150 metric-based desired outcome statements to describe the successful execution of a typical job-to-be-done. When looking at innovation through a jobs-to-be-done lens, these desired outcomes are the customer needs. We have developed methods to extract outcome statements from customers and built an innovation process that uses these statements as a key process input. This is where our Outcome-Driven Innovation process gets its name.
Knowing all the customer outcomes in a market (and which ones are unmet) makes it possible to systematically construct a solution that will help customers get the job done significantly better. While traditional innovation methods have a less than 20 percent success rate, our application of Outcome-Driven Innovation results in success over 80 percent of the time. This is no accident. Our jobs-to-be-done approach to innovation mitigates the risks that cause traditional innovation methods to fail. It makes it possible to know in advance of product development just how much better a new product concept will help customers get a job done.
Over the past 22 years, Strategyn has used the jobs-to-be-done framework to reinvent the entire innovation process. This has resulted in a new way to define customers, markets and needs, a new way to segment and size markets, and a new way to construct and test ideas. All these advancements are embodied in our 12-step ODI process, which is outlined to the right, showing the order in which we execute the innovation process steps. The process begins with jobs-to-be-done research that acquires the inputs (the insights and information) necessary to assure that an idea, when conceived, developed and launched, will be a winner. This is the predictive power of the jobs-to-be-done framework.
Define the primary customer as the job executor: the person using the product to get a job done.
Define the market as the job executor and the job they are trying to get done.
Define customer needs as outcomes: the metrics customers use to measure success when executing the job.
Uncover market opportunities by discovering where customers struggle to get a job done: the underserved outcomes.
Discover the segments of customers that struggle most to get the job done, and why.
Size the market based on the number of underserved job executors and what they will pay to get the job done perfectly.
Evaluate competitive products against the customer outcomes to see where those products fail to get the job done well.
Decide which segments and unmet outcomes to target for value creation and decide whether to pursue a disruptive, breakthrough, sustaining, or product improvement strategy.
Determine what price the target customers are willing to pay to get the job done perfectly.
Construct the product or service concept that best addresses the customer’s unmet outcomes, helping the customer get the job done significantly better.
Test the concept against all the customer outcomes to ensure it gets the job done well enough to justify the price point and win in the market.
Position the concept to appeal to the customer’s unmet outcomes and emotional jobs.
Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework For Product Development
The key to agile development
The ideal input into the product development process would be a perfectly defined product concept that would almost certainly win the marketplace. With a perfectly defined concept, there would be no need for design changes, modifications and feature creep in development. In fact, the concept that entered the development process would be the exact product exiting the process. In today’s world, this is rarely the case because many of the activities that should take place during the innovation process end up getting executed, repeated, or corrected in the development process. This “pivoting” and “failing fast” mentality leads to long, expensive development cycles and it is unnecessary. Pivoting and failing fast become acceptable practices when companies cannot figure out how to get it right in the first place.
Using the Outcome-Driven Innovation process, Strategyn consistently produces robust and well-defined product concepts that require little to no change in development, thereby streamlining the development process. Strategyn clients have found that a robust product definition can cut the development cycle by up to 75 percent.
Our jobs-to-be-done approach to product and service development is unique in one other very important way: the development team is informed of all the customer-defined metrics that were used to define the product concept. In making design trade-off decisions, the team is guided by these metrics, which means the team’s decisions are the right ones. In conventional development processes, designers rarely have this type of customer input. Strategyn’s approach is the ultimate in agile development.
“The goal of agile development is to eliminate failures and pivots. That can only be achieved when your product concept is near-perfect to begin with.”
Jobs-To-Be-Done Framework For Marketing
A new approach to market segmentation
When marketing is examined through a jobs-to-be-done lens, it becomes clear that the goal of marketing is to prove to customers that your product or service will help them get their job done better than competing solutions. This is accomplished by messaging the strengths of your existing product; the dimensions along which it gets the job done better than the other solutions that are available. While this is an important function of marketing, the ability to segment a group of customers who are trying to get a job done also offers a new way to gain competitive advantage.
Some customers struggle more than others when getting a job done. Because they struggle more, they are more underserved and are often willing to pay more for a solution that will help them get the job done better. While jobs-to-be-done segmentation provides a new and effective way to segment a market, the jobs-to-be-done milkshake marketing example made popular by Clayton Christensen does not explain the application of jobs-to-be-done theory in the way we intended. To learn where his explanation goes off track, see our blog post titled Customer Segmentation Is Soured By Milkshake Marketing.
Defining the customer’s job-to-be-done
The first challenge that companies face when applying this theory is defining exactly who the customer is and what job they are trying to get done. While on the surface this seems like it should be a simple task, it is rarely the case. The job must be defined as a process; an activity that consists of a series of steps that customers take to complete a task or achieve a goal or objective. This means that the job-to-be-done is always a functional job; not an emotional job. This is an important point to keep in mind when initiating a jobs-to-be-done analysis. Here are a few jobs-to-be-done examples.
50 years in the making
In the 1960s, Theodore Levitt said, “people don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” His point was profound: people buy products and services to accomplish a task or achieve a goal.
In the 1980’s, Strategyn founder Tony Ulwick became intrigued with innovation as a process after witnessing a number of product failures while working with IBM. At the time, IBM was using metrics to improve its manufacturing process as part of its newly formed Six Sigma program. Six Sigma was focused on operations and costs, but Ulwick wondered if there was an analogous set of metrics that could be used to guide product development and revenue generation.
Shortly after leaving IBM in 1991 to focus on this issue, Ulwick realized the implication of Theodore Levitt’s insight that “people don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” Six Sigma focused on process improvement, and making a quarter-inch hole is a process. Ulwick concluded that by focusing on the process of making the hole instead of on the product, one could apply Six Sigma thinking to value creation. It became clear to him that new products could be designed and tested to see how well they helped customers execute the task at hand.
It was in 1992 that Ulwick first began to define a customer need as a metric that customers use to measure success when using a product to complete a task or process. This led to new qualitative and quantitative research methods to uncover these needs and to determine which are underserved. With these discoveries, his Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) process was born.
In 1994, using ODI, Ulwick helped Cordis Corporation create a new line of angioplasty balloons. They released 19 new products, all of which became number one or two in the market. Their market share increased from 1% to over 20%. This marked the first of many successes he had using this thinking. The model was proven successful.
In 1996 Ulwick filed, and was ultimately granted, a number of patents on this process. The patents describe a method by which new product concepts are constructed and evaluated around the metrics customers use to measure success when executing a task or a process.
In 2000, and with many product successes behind him, Ulwick approached Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen about his ODI process. He thought it provided a good solution to the issues Christensen raised in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma because it made the process or “job,” not the customer or the product, the unit of analysis. Christensen liked the thinking.
After being introduced to jobs-to-be-done, Christensen included a chapter in his 2002 book The Innovator’s Solution citing Ulwick’s work in job and outcome-based thinking, market segmentation and the ODI process.
In 2005, Ulwick releases the book What Customers Want, revealing how he transformed jobs-to-be-done theory into the Outcome-Driven Innovation process.
In 2005, Christensen writes the HBR article Marketing Malpractice. The Cause And The Cure. Because of Christensen’s book and subsequent articles, jobs-to-be-done theory becomes popular in innovation circles.
In 2008, Ulwick writes the HBR article The Customer-Centered Innovation Map and the MIT Sloan article Giving Customers A Fair Hearing. Both offer valuable insights into jobs-to-be-done thinking and the Outcome-Driven Innovation methodology.
In 2012, Ulwick and Jay Haynes are granted a patent for creating a method for sizing markets and pricing products based on jobs-to-be-done theory. Ulwick and Strategyn continue to transform that theory into practice.
July 2013, Tony Ulwick is granted a patent that integrates jobs-to-be-done theory and the ODI process into an enterprise solution that guides strategy and innovation decision making.