How looking at the jobs people are trying to accomplish can lead to innovation.

How looking at the jobs people are trying to accomplish can lead to innovation.
March 3, 2023
Product Development

Striking a chord with your customers and users is always the goal behind developing a new product. It’s no secret that innovation is one of the many ways to deliver customer satisfaction. So why do many products fall flat when it comes to addressing customer needs? Is the customer the one to blame? Is it the way we build our technology? Or is it simply the way we are looking at things? In many ways, it all comes down to understanding the job that the customer is trying to achieve.

Jobs-to-Be-Done theory (JTBD) was first pioneered by Clayton Christensen in which he argued that most customer data companies collect is structured to show correlations (Christensen).  Relying on marketing metrics, in turn, is problematic because it completely ignores the underlying motives of what the customer is truly trying to achieve. Christensen, in turn, proposed the JTBD theory helps aid in the innovation process that many companies seemed to fall short of accomplishing. The JTBD theory reimagines the idea of the product and explains we essentially “hire it to help us do a job (Christensen).

When it comes to innovation the JTBD theory plays a powerful role. Some of the major principles of innovation are observation, communication, and trying to see what others don’t. To aid with accomplishing innovation personas, ethnographic research, focus groups, customer panels, competitive analysis, and so on can all be perfectly valid starting points for surfacing important insights (Christensen). The JTBD theory takes the customer needs analysis a step further as it strives to understand what the individual is really seeking to accomplish. Getting to the level of understanding the psychology of the customer and knowing the deep motives will help create a product that cannot be replicated.

Every job is multifaceted. In every job to be done, there is a constant tug of war between functionality and emotion. The functional job aspect is the practical objective customer requirement, in other words, if the solutions work or not. Too often designers and engineers get caught in the functional aspect and have a solution driven approach to innovation. To combat this the social, as well as the emotional aspect of the product, must come into play. The emotional aspect relates to how the customer feels when they interact with the product or the aesthetic of the product. Functionality tied with the emotional aspect along with identifying the job to be done will increase your chances of developing a successful innovative product.

Examples of the JTBD theory are numerous in product development. One example comes from Christensen himself.  Christensen recalls a conversation with a man named Bob Moesta who was tasked with for increasing sales for new condominiums for Detroit. The company targeted single downsizers with a very well thought out marketing campaign. This company was well staffed with some amazing salespeople, yet they were still struggling to close the deal. Taking the JTBD Moesta found that the anxiety of letting go of the past as saying goodbye to sentimental items such as family dining room tables made it hard to make the final purchase. After coming to that realization the company made the necessary changes to increase sales.  The example above illustrates that designing offerings around jobs will allow you to innovate based on a deeper understanding of the customer without trying to guess what trade-offs your customers are willing to make.

When it comes to innovating thinking outside the box is necessary. Individuals that take a solution driven approach to achieve technology usually fall short of creating a product that truly resonates with the customer or user. The JTBD theory is a great way to start thinking about what your customer really needs and can bring a whole new dimension into the needs analysis phase of the product development and innovation process.

Further Reading