Transforming ideas into reality.

Banner Image

Jobs To Be Done

Posted 3 years ago

The Jobs To Be Done (JTBD) theory can provide a more successful path to new product innovation. By first seeking to understand what the customer is trying to do, and then delivering a more effective, efficient, and pleasant way to do that task, organisations can remove almost all of the barriers to purchase, dramatically improving the success rate for new products.


The Jobs To Be Done theory builds on Theodore Levitt’s insight, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

When a customer purchases a product, they are essentially “hiring” the product to help them do a job. If it does the job well, the next time they are confronted with the same job, they will most likely hire that product again. If it does a bad job, the customer will “fire” it and look for an alternative.

Customers…often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve,” the Christensen Institute explains. By better understanding the job customers are ‘hiring’ a product or service to do, organisations can more accurately design and develop successful new offerings that meet the needs of the customer.

While most companies innovate by trying to improve their existing products (creating a better quarter-inch drill), the innovation process is dramatically improved by instead trying to find better ways to create a quarter-inch hole (to get the job done). Many new product development teams would be better off if they stopped focusing so much on the product, and instead focused on understanding the job that people are trying to get done.

It’s a difficult concept to master – which is why we have designed training programs that help to put this theory into practice.

Many of today’s new product development departments sift through an incredible amount of customer data. Purchase behaviour, trends, economic and demographic data is sorted and analysed to create predictions that guide new product development.

But it is difficult for even today’s sophisticated AI algorithms to accurately predict human behaviour, particularly when many of our purchase decisions are driven by whim and circumstance. A fit, health-conscious, 20-something gym instructor may purchase a chocolate bar because they are taking their ten-year-old nephew to the movies. While they do not fit the persona of the usual chocolate bar customer, they bought the item to fulfill a purpose – reward, entertainment, or a bribe.

The Jobs To Be Done theory can transform our understanding of customer choice in a way that no amount of data ever could, because it focuses on the causal driver behind a purchase.

Successful innovations help consumers to solve problems. If we can develop new products that enable customers to achieve what they need to more efficiently, we deliver a successful solution.

Here are some principles to keep in mind:

  • A “Job” is what an individual seeks to accomplish.
    But this goal usually involves more than just a straightforward task. It is important to consider the experience a person is trying to create, and the way they want to feel when doing the job.

  • The circumstances surrounding the purchase are often more important than customer characteristics, product attributes, new technologies, or trends.
    When innovation is applied through the lens of the customers’ circumstances, a whole new set of competing products come to light. A vacuum cleaner is not just competing against other products in the same category. It is also competing against a cleaning service, a broom, or a habitually dirty floor. But when the mother-in-law comes to stay? A job needs to be done. And quickly.

  • Can your product help customers get multiple jobs done?
    You can take the Jobs To Be Done theory further in new product development by investigating how you can help customers get more jobs done. The more jobs a product can help a customer perform, the more valuable that product can be. The Swiss Army Knife, for example, helps customers get dozens of jobs done, and an iPhone helps customers get thousands of jobs done.

  • Understand the pain.
    What will your customers pay to get their jobs done? Focus on the jobs that cause the most pain, that will be most valuable to the customer if they are done swiftly and well. Those jobs can be lucrative areas of focus for new product development teams.

The Jobs To Be Done theory can be a driving force for companies focused on growth and innovation. Define your market segments around the job-to-be-done rather than customer demographics and characteristics. Spend time analysing how your product or service can improve the customer’s ability to get to their desired end state and articulate that clearly. Focus your innovation efforts on creating products that get the job done right, every time.


Need more insights that are relevant to your projects? We offer innovation training for teams that explores innovation methodology, types of innovation and best practice innovation frameworks, including the Jobs To Be Done theory. Enquire now about how you can teach your teams to turn everyday problem-solving into innovative new products or services for your organisation. Find out more.