3 Jobs-to-be-Done Examples to Help You Innovate with Confidence

The jobs-to-be-done framework helps understand the reasons why someone buys a particular product.

I use this tool in two ways:
1. To understand what people want in a specific market;
2. To create a compelling customer experience.

It helps me uncover the needs and desires of a market. And it makes it easier to think about the benefits and customer experience that should shape a new value proposition.

What does “Jobs to Be Done” mean?

The jobs-to-be-done framework uses “jobs” as a metaphor to explain what people are trying to achieve when they buy something.

Here’s a good definition of a job to be done :

“A job is the progress a customer seeks in a particular context.”

Another way to think about jobs to be done is to see them as the things customers are trying to achieve in very specific circumstances.

In Competing Against Luck, Clayton Christen adds:

“This definition is specific and important: Fully understanding a customer’s job requires understanding the progress a customer is trying to make in particular circumstances and understanding all of its functional, social, and emotional dimensions—as well as the tradeoffs the customer is willing to make.”

People do not just buy a product or service. They “hire” them to make progress.

The Job Theory: A way to put the customer in the center

This metaphor forces us to focus on the customer. It emphasises the progress they are trying to achieve. We’re then less likely to think about the product first.

Christensen explains this in an article called Marketing Malpractice:

“Theodore Levitt used to tell his students:

‘People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!’

Every marketer we know agrees with Levitt’s insight. Yet these same people segment their markets by type of drill and by price point; they measure market share of drills, not holes; and they benchmark the features and functions of their drill, not their hole, against those of rivals.”

— Clayton Christensen, author of Competing Against Luck

As an alternative to the concept of “jobs to be done”, I prefer using the term “goals”. I have found it makes it easier to explain the concept to my team members and clients. (But for the purpose of this article, I’ll stick to “jobs”).

(By the way, Theodore Levitt is author of Marketing Myopia. This an article that has had a big impact on what marketing means today. The article highlights the importance of defining your industry, i.e. known as the “Law of Category” in 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.)

What makes the Job Theory useful?

The jobs-to-be-done framework is also called “outcome-driven innovation“.

It’s a fancy name to say that it focuses on the outcome customers want to accomplish.

What’s useful here is that being clear on the outcome also get you to understand what causes people to buy something.

Here is how the Christensen Institute explains the framework:

The jobs-to-be-done framework is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives.

Customers often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. With an understanding of the “job” for which customers find themselves “hiring” a product or service, companies can more accurately develop and market products well-tailored to what customers are already trying to do.

Once you get clarity on why someone wants to buy something, it makes it easier for your to create the right products.

Let’s jump on some examples to make this more concrete.

1. A good JTBD example: Milkshake Marketing

I first came across the job-to-be-done framework through this example:

The Milkshake Marketing case study.

I use it often as it helps explain the power of understanding how jobs emerge in people’s lives. It’s about customers who “hire” milkshakes for breakfast in fast-food restaurants.

You can watch this video that summarises it:

The Milkshake example comes from the research of Clay Christensen. It’s about a fast-food company. The company used the job framework to create milkshake tailored to the need of their customers on the morning.

By doing customer interviews, they realised that people “hired” milkshake for different reasons in the morning.

The insight: Milkshakes were hired in lieu of a bagel or doughnut because it was relatively tidy and appetite-quenching, and because trying to suck a thick liquid through a thin straw gave customers something to do while driving during their boring commute.

The new value proposition: Understanding the job to be done, the company could then respond by creating a morning milkshake that was even thicker (to last through a long commute) and more interesting (with chunks of fruit) than its predecessor.

The example is great for three reasons:

  1. The reason why customers buy milkshakes for breakfast is surprising;
  2. It shows the importance of understanding customers’ jobs in a particular context;
  3. It illustrates how jobs can be used to segment a market.

By the way, I also use another tool to segment a market. It’s called worldviews. Read more about it here.

2. Photoshop vs Instagram: When a new job to be done arises

The Photoshop/Instagram example is a good way to explains the importance of alternatives.

Both products are photo-editing software.

But they now help people achieve two different jobs.

User Interface (UI) of Photoshop CS6

For years, Photoshop has been a reference for editing pictures. The software does this job very well. Even though it takes time, you can virtually do everything with Photoshop.

But what happens when the context changed?

The insight: Smartphones turned hundreds millions of people into photographers. People started taking a lot of pictures. Not all of them are high quality shots. So they do not deserve to spend hours editing them with Photoshop.

But still…

These new photographers want to feel like they’re taking professional shots. This was a challenge when the cameras built in smartphones—and the algorithms behind them—weren’t as great as they are today. They could have used Photoshop. But it was too time consuming.

The opportunity: People wanted something fast, mobile, and social. Something that helps them do the job when they’re using their smartphones.

The value proposition: This is exactly what Instagram was about when it started.

Today, Photoshop and Instagram are used for two different jobs:

  1. Photoshop: For professional photographers who want to edit high-quality shots;
  2. Instagram: For amateurs who want to edit and share beautiful everyday pictures.

3. The iPod Example: The difference between “Jobs” and “Benefits”

The jobs stand on the market side (your insight), while the benefits stand on the product side (your proposition).

Here’s another example I use explain the different between a “job” and a “benefit”.

When Apple released the first iPod. It used a catch phrase that has become a marketing case study:

“1,000 songs in your pocket.”

When the iPod was launched, people didn’t know what the feature “5 GB” meant for them. By translating the storage size into number of songs, they could clearly see the benefit.

Example of benefits vs features

What is the difference between a job to be done and a benefit ?

In a recent conversation I had with Karen Dillon, author of Competing Against Luck, a book about the jobs-to-be-done framework, she clarified the meaning of a job vs. a benefit:

“So features and benefits are geared to solving a job. But if they aren’t well match to the job someone is hiring a product or service to do, it doesn’t matter how good they are, they won’t attract and keep those people struggling with a job.”

The job is about the customer.

The feature + benefit are about the product.

An example of when we “hire” an iPod

An example of job to be done that we have is to motivate ourselves with music when we go running.

In that context, we were used to hire a big Walkman. See Monica from Friends doing this in 1994:

Example of job to be done: Feeling motivated while doing some sport

The job remains the same in 1994 and in 2001—when the iPod was released. People still wanted to achieve the same progress: to motivate themselves with some music when they go running.

But in the iPod offers better features, which means better benefits.

Overall, the user experience is better tailored to do the job of feeling motivated when you go running. The iPod is smaller, easier to use, and it allows you to have more than one CD (12 songs) on your playlist. You don’t have to listen to the same music over and over again or be bothered to change the CD.

Here’s a summary of the example:

Feature: 5 GB
Benefit: 1,000 songs your pocket
Context: when you go running
Job to be done: you want to motivate yourself with some music

4. Bonus: JTBD in Retail Banking

For a layperson, retail banking sounds complicated.

So many different products, long terms and conditions…

But when you apply the job-to-be-done framework to it, things get clearer.

Banks help us achieve four different kinds of jobs.

  1. Keep my money safe
  2. Move my money
  3. Grow my money
  4. Lend me money

At the most basic level, a bank or a FinTech does that.

More Resources and Examples about Jobs to Be Done:

  1. https://medium.com/the-job-to-be-done/replacing-the-user-story-with-the-job-story-af7cdee10c27#.ca7hfuvbp: A framework to apply the Jobs-to-be-Done approach to user stories
  2. https://medium.com/the-founders-blog/when-jobs-to-be-done-backfires-f70dd0ac4498#.q7j13bvke
  3. https://medium.com/@zbigniewgecis/8-things-to-use-in-jobs-to-be-done-framework-for-product-development-4ae7c6f3c30b#.y0ovaqula