Jobs-to-be-done: A logic that helps pinpoint customers‘ unmet needs

What is a person’s need? While psychology has found answers and created all sorts of models to explain human behavior, business management has not. Here is where the jobs-to-be-done logic comes in: It helps companies understand their customers‘ needs by framing the problem from the user perspective.

In their quest for innovation, companies often focus on the wrong things: products and technology, for instance, or market dynamics and customer behavior. Sadly, this usually fails to reveal what customers really want and why – a phenomenon that Ted Levitt, in his groundbreaking HBR article, refers to as «marketing myopia». Instead, companies should focus on the job or purpose that users want to get done, when using their products or services.

What’s good about jobs-to-be-done?

It shifts the perspective
to the user

People don’t use a product or service because of their features, but to get a job done – that is, accomplish a purpose. Once a new solution is available that serves that purpose better, they switch. This simple and intuitive way of framing customer problems helps innovators think like their customers.

It frees the view on your real competitors

While markets are structured by products, users think in terms of jobs. Rather than looking for products, they look for alternative ways to get a job done. Example: For a sports museum, competition might not be other museums, but cinemas, arcades, or indoor pools – that is, alternative ways where parents seek «to entertain their children».

It has predictive power as it is solution-free

Successful innovation anticipates unmet needs. The ability to predict upcoming needs is therefore critical. Companies, however, typically focus on solutions, not on needs.  Jobs-to-be-done, if applied correctly, is one of the few concept that are truly solution-free and thus has predictive power.

The importance of understanding the job, by Clayton Christensen

Jobs-to-be-done history in short.


The originator: Theodore Levitt

Harvard professor Theodore Levitt was famous for having realized that «people don’t buy a drill, but a quarter inch hole» – an insight around which management guru Peter Drucker built his thinking. It revolutionized marketing approaches worldwide, inspiring companies to focus on benefits rather than features. In fast-moving consumer goods, it became the mantra for product development, brand positioning and compelling advertising.

Levitt’s groundbreaking HBR article «Marketing Myopia» inspired us to start thinking in terms of «jobs-to-be-done».



Clayton Christensen – the world’s foremost authority on disruptive innovation – introduced the JTBD logic to innovation: He emphasizes that people want to achieve a goal or a purpose, rather than wanting a technology or product. Today, leading JTBD practitioners like Tony Ulwick of Strategyn are building on Christensen’s insight. Thought leaders in disciplines such as Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile User Development and Business Modelling are discovering the value of the Jobs-to-be-done logic for their respective fields. A growing number of companies adopt it as a simple no-frills way to understand end customers.

Customer Focused Innovation


100 times applied, constantly improved. As creators of the Customer-Focused Innovation framework, we at Vendbridge have been systematically applying the Jobs-to-be-done logic for over 10 years. In fact, the founders of our firm have intuitively applied this kind of thinking when they first started out in consumer goods marketing. We constantly strive on improving CFI, working with companies and experts from a range of fields – always with an eye on making the JTBD logic more actionable, and solving today’s most challenging business issues.

Highlights of our jobs-to-be-done story

Quality Function Deployment – QFD

QFD helping to translate Voice of Customer (VOC) into engineering

Impact of early Jobs-to-be-done

In FMCG: Marketing switches from features to customer benefit.

Advertising: The Consumer Insight is defined.

Consumer research starts

Voice of Customer (VOC) as part of QFD


Peter Drucker

Drucker writes Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

«Process needs to start out with the job to be done.»

Jobs-to-be-done at P&G

Today’s CFI partners meet at P&G to apply early forms of Jobs-to-be-done and Consumer Insight thinking.

The Innovator's Dilemma

Clayton Christensen publishes The Innovator’s Dilemma


Design Thinking gains traction with the founding of the Stanford and the HPI for Design thinking .

Roger Chevalier

CFI founder Roger Chevalier works with Ulwick and Strategyn to improve ODI (Outcome-driven-Innovation), a fundamental inspiration for CFI.

The Innovator's Solution

Clayton Christensen publishes The Innovator’s Solution.

Strategyn licensed

Beat Walther joins Roger Chevalier to work with Strategyn’s ODI  on a global scale

Tony Ulwick

Ulwick publishes What Customers Want

Founding CFI

The CFI methodology starts taking shape, the CFI Institute for Customer-Focused Innovation is founded.

Our logo from the old days:

Business Model Generation

Alexander Osterwalder writes Business Model Generation.

Eric Ries

The Lean Start up is published.

The Golden Path of Efficient Innovation

Fernand Gouth, a CFI customer, shares his experience with CFI in Profitable Innovation?

Value Proposition Design

Alex Osterwalder incorporates Jobs-to-be-done in his Value Proposition Design bestseller.

Jobs-to-be-done meets Design thinking

The two methodologies meet and share their best practices since.


Jobs to be done

Tony Ulwick publishes Jobs to be done, Theory to Practice.

Competing against luck

Christensen publishes Competing against luck.

10 years of CFI

The CFI Institute celebrates its 10th anniversary.

A new look, a new website: We are innovating ourselves.

Our new logo as of 2017: