Perspectives of JTBD

There are many misconceptions about the field of JTBD. Part of the problem was in-fighting amongst leading JTBD professionals and thought-leaders. Newcomers to JTBD may find an array of approaches and opinions on the topic, leading to confusion and discouragement. Contentious debates exacerbate the divide.

JTBD falls broadly into two camps. On the one side, there is “Switch” pioneered by Bob Moesta. This technique seeks to reverse engineer the underlying motivation for changing from one solution to another. On the other side is Tony Ulwick’s Outcome-Driven Innovation (ODI) methodology, a strategy and innovation approach focused on pinpointing unmet needs through rigorous quantification.

I believe these two sides are not mutually exclusive, and there is a place for both. Sometimes, it makes sense to understand people’s needs and motivations from the bottom-up (i.e., ODI). Other times, it’s appropriate to start with a particular solution in mind and look at the aspirations around it (i.e., Switch). For more on my perspective, see my article “Drills and Milkshakes” here.

To get a better sense of potential differences and similarities, I’ve found it helpful to compare different definitions. Here are some of the leading thought-leaders and how they view a “job” I’ve collected over the years.

  • Clayton Christensen, Karen Dillon, Taddy Hall & David S. Duncan. Competing Against Luck (2017)
    “A job to be done is your customers’ struggle for progress and creating the right solution and attendant set of experiences to ensure you solve your customers’ jobs well.”
  • Tony Ulwick. “What Is Jobs-to-be-Done?JTBD+ODI blog (Feb 2017)
    “The theory is based on the notion that people buy products and services to get a ‘job’ done. A ‘job’ is a statement of what the customer is trying to achieve or accomplish in a given situation.”
  • Sandra M. Bates. The Social Innovation Imperative (2011)
    “Jobs are defined as the goals and objectives that people want to accomplish or what they are trying to prevent or avoid… Jobs are what motivate people to buy a product or service such as an iPhone, which enables them to ‘be productive while on the go,’ or auto insurance so they can ‘protect against financial loss in the case of an accident.’’
  • Bob Moesta. “Bob Moesta on Jobs-to-be-Done,” Inside Intercom (May 2017)
    “A job is really the process of making progress… It’s helping them understand the struggles they have to go through to get to the progress they want…Remember, it’s not Jobs — it’s Jobs-to-be-Done. It’s about the thing they want to do better, and that’s where innovation has to be.”
  • Lance Bettencourt. Service Innovation (2010)
    “What the customer values is the ability to get a job done well. The customer job therefore offers a stable, long-term focal point for the improvement of current services or the creation of new-to-the-world services. Ultimately customers are loyal to the job.”
  • Mike Boysen. “What Jobs To Be Done is, and is not,” Medium (Dec 2017)
    “A Job is a goal or objective; or a problem that must be solved in order to create a desired future-state. Yes, it’s progress as we are moving from a current-state to a future-state (in getting the job done). Executing a process or Job is progress. Solving problems is progress. Achieving goals and objectives is progress.”
  • Stephen Wunker & Jessica Wattman. Jobs To Be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation (2016)
    “While jobs are the tasks the customers are looking to get done in their lives, job drivers are the underlying contextual elements that make certain jobs more or less important.”
  • Alan Klement. When Coffee and Kale Compete (2017)
    “A Job to be Done is the process a consumer goes through whenever she evolves herself through buying and using a product. It begins when the customer becomes aware of the possibility to evolve. It continues as long as the desired progress is sought. It ends when the consumer realizes new capabilities and behaves differently, or abandons the idea of evolving.”
  • Des Traynor in Intercom on Jobs-to-be-Done (2017)
    “Jobs-to-be-Done…lets you focus on making things people actually want. When you’re solving needs that already exist, you don’t need to convince people they need your product.”
  • Scott Burleson. The Statue in the Stone (2020)
    “The job is a customer’s goal, objective, or problem to be solved.”

There are similarities across these sources and definitions. A job is a goal or objective a person wants to accomplish or achieve that happens in a given context or circumstance. A job is also about the process of making progress, with needs and desired outcomes. Jobs are motivators and drivers of behavior: they predict why people act the way they do.

However, it’s not definitions that hold a discipline together, it’s a shared set of principles and ideals. Regardless of the point of view, common core themes hold JTBD together as a field:

  • People want to get a job done, not necessarily to interact with an organization.
  • Jobs are stable over time.
  • People seek services that help them get more of their job done, better.
  • JTBD helps predict adoption, reducing risk in innovation efforts.
  • JTBD isn’t limited to one discipline; it applies across the organization.

Focus on the above concepts, and you’ll be able to benefit from JTBD regardless of your approach.

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