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Jobs-to-be-Done Examples and Rules

Getting it right is a prerequisite for success, and the key to predictable innovation.

Jobs-to-be-Done Book

Defining The Job-To-Be-Done

Success in innovation doesn’t come from understanding the customer. It comes from a deep understanding of the job the customer is trying to get done. After all, it is the desire to get a job done that causes them to buy a product or service in the first place. This thinking is fundamental to Jobs-to-be-Done Theory. The first challenge that companies face when applying this theory is defining what job the customer is trying to get done. It is not as easy as it might sound. A few JTBD examples are in order.

Defining the job-to-be-done correctly is a prerequisite to predictable success in innovation, because the job becomes the focal point around which the entire innovation process is executed. Jobs-based customer needs discovery, market sizing and market segmentation methods are all dependent on defining the job correctly. If it is not the actual job the customer is trying to execute, lots of time and money can be wasted, and a failed product may be launched before the mistake is realized. We have seen many JTBD examples that apply the theory in the wrong manner.

Additionally, if customers are not struggling to get the job done, or if there are not enough job executors trying to get the job done, then it may not be a good market to go after in the first place. (See market selection.)

What Jobs-To-Be-Done Theory Tells Us

So what is the best way to define the customer’s job-to-be-done? Keep in mind that the reason the Jobs-to-be-Done Theory is so powerful is because it allows companies to analyze the job like it would analyze a business process, providing a new and effective method for uncovering and prioritizing customer needs. Consequently, 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 defining the job-to-be-done is always a functional job; not an emotional job.

Over the years we have developed a set of rules that we follow to define the job correctly. Here are three of the dozen or so rules we use to get it right along with some JTBD examples:

  1. We think about the job from the customer’s perspective; not the company’s. For example, a company that supplies herbicides to farmers may conclude that growers (the job executors) are trying to “kill weeds,” while the growers might say the JTBD is to “prevent weeds from impacting crop yields”. To avoid this mistake, don’t ask, “What job are people hiring my product for?” Rather, ask, “What job is the customer trying to get done?” Because customers often cobble together many solutions to try and get the entire job done, the answers to these two questions are often very different. We see many jobs-to-be-done examples in the blogosphere that get this wrong.
  2. We think big; to encompass the entire job, not just a piece of it. A narrow focus will hurt a company because customers are looking for products and services that help them get the entire job done better. For example, a company could focus on helping a grower “prevent weeds from impacting crop yields,” but alternatively they may want to focus on helping them get the entire job done, which is to “grow a crop.” Customers do not want to have to cobble lots of incompatible solutions together to try and get the entire job done. They'd prefer to get the entire job done on a single platform.
  3. We define a market around a functional job, not the emotional goals that accompany it. A company that already offers a product that “prevents people from getting lost when driving” (a functional job) would do themselves a disservice to instead conclude that their customers are hiring their product to “achieve peace of mind” (an emotional job).  A focus on “peace of mind” will not deliver the insights that are needed to better prevent people from getting lost. Knowing the customers’ accompanying emotional jobs is helpful, of course, but only when it comes to positioning and messaging; not innovation. Once again, we see many JTBD examples offered in the blogosphere that miss this point. 

As the pioneers of JTBD thinking and with 3 decades of experience, we are the best in the world at defining the job-to-be-done at the right level of abstraction for product and service innovation. This is a critical step in achieving predictable company growth. Discover more JTBD examples and the other steps in our innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation.

Stop guessing. Start innovating.
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