The Idea in Brief
We all know that people “hire” products to get jobs done. Office workers hire word-processing software to create documents. Surgeons hire scalpels to dissect soft tissue. But few companies keep this in mind while searching for ideas for breakthrough offerings. Instead, they rely on inquiry methods (such as customer interviews) that don’t generate the most promising ideas or exhaustive sets of possibilities.
To systematically uncover more-and better-innovative ideas, Ulwick recommends first using the jobs-to-be-done framework to break down the job that customers want done into discrete steps. Then brainstorm ways to make steps easier, faster, or unnecessary.
For example, while cleaning clothes, people don’t notice stubborn stains until they’ve taken the clothes from a dryer and started folding them. If they find a stain, they must repeat the job. A washer that detects persistent stains and takes appropriate action before consumers execute the rest of the job would have huge appeal.
Mapping a Customer Job
To find ways to innovate, use the jobs-to-be-done framework to deconstruct the job a customer is trying to get done. By working through the questions here, we can map a customer job in a handful of interviews with customers and internal experts.
We start by understanding the execution step, to establish context and a frame of reference. Next, we examine each step before execution and then after, to uncover the role each plays in getting the job done.
To ensure that we are mapping job steps (what the customer is trying to accomplish) rather than process solutions (what is currently being done), we ask ourselves the validating questions below at each step.
As defined, does the step specify what the customer is trying to accomplish, or is it only being done to accomplish a more fundamental goal? Does the step apply universally for any customer executing the job, or does it depend on how a particular customer does the job?
- Defining the execution step: what are the most central tasks that must be accomplished in getting the job done?
- Defining pre-execution steps: what must happen before the core execution step to ensure the job is successfully carried out?
- Defining post-execution steps: what must happen after the core execution step to ensure the job is successfully carried out?
Uncovering Opportunities for Innovation
With the jobs-to-be-done framework in hand, we can begin to look systematically for opportunities to create value. The questions below can guide us in our search and help us avoid overlooking any possibilities. A great way to begin is to consider the biggest drawbacks of current solutions at each step in the map-in particular, drawbacks related to speed of execution, variability, and the quality of output. To increase the effectiveness of this approach, we invite a diverse team of experts-marketing, design, engineering, and even some lead customers-to participate in this discussion.
Opportunities at the job level
- Can the job be executed in a more efficient or effective sequence?
- Do some customers struggle more with executing the job than others (for instance, novices versus experts, older versus younger?)
- What struggles or inconveniences do customers experience because they must rely on multiple solutions to get the job done?
- Is it possible to eliminate the need for particular inputs or outputs from the job?
- Is it necessary that the customers execute all steps for which they are currently responsible? Can the burden be automated or shifted to someone else?
- How many trends affect the way the job is executed in the future?
- In what contexts do customers most struggle with executing the job today? Where else or when else might customers want to execute the job?
Opportunities at the step level
- What causes variability (or unreliability) in executing this step? What causes execution to go off track?
- Do some customers struggle more than others with this step?
- What does this step’s ideal output look like (and in what ways is the current output less than ideal?)
- Is this step more difficult to execute successfully in some contexts than others?
- What are the biggest drawbacks of current solutions used to execute this step?
- What makes executing this step time-consuming or inconvenient?
To identify opportunities for innovation, some companies focus on product leadership, some on operational excellence, and some on customer intimacy. Some offer services; others offer goods. Regardless of which business model a company chooses, the fundamental basis for identifying opportunities for growth is the same. When companies understand that customers hire products, services, software, and ideas to get jobs done, they can use our jobs-to-be-done template to dissect those jobs to discover the innovation opportunities that are the key to growth. The jobs-to-be-done framework is an integral part of our innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation.
To learn more about Jobs-to-be Done, visit our new playbook.
This playbook dives further into what is Jobs-to-be Done, Defining Your Market, Building Your Job Map, and Putting the Jobs to be Done Theory into practice.