Why yet another strategy framework like Jobs-to-be-done? Because at least 80% of all innovations flop. This is not acceptable for such a core activity of a company. A better theory and proven practices are required.

How can JTBD bring down innovation flop rate? By increasing acceptance rates of customer significantly. It leads to new products that users will love and strategies that resonate. JTBD as a principle has the power to deliver in at least three different ways.

Taking the user perspective

Many companies develop strategies based on past experience, technological feasibility or trial & error. They ask what has worked, what is feasible, what fits our strategy, what could be done, etc. This is limiting because the user never sits at the table to raise his voice. However, if you frame the user problem the jobs-to-be-done way, via asking what jobs or goals users want to get done, and how he or she approaches it, developers instantly shift to the user perspective.

A classic is Christensen’s Milkshake case, which is well documented. Two examples from our CFI practice help to illustrate further.

A global distributor of nuts & bolts wants to differentiate from competition. Just distributing screws like any other distributor is not a very profitable position to be in. Taking the JTBD perspective led to a different spin. By asking what product managers, their customers, are trying to get done when designing new products, the company instantly started thinking about engineering services. This led to some break-through services and tools helping product managers and thus allowing to make a difference versus competition.

A premium manufacturer of pots & pans wants to enhance its innovation road map. Product engineers thought hard what features could be added to pots & pans. Not easy for such a basic product, and certainly not the way a woman experiences her pots, who does not ask herself every day in the kitchen what feature should be added to her pots. The JTBD perspective is different. It asks what goes wrong when preparing a meal, the job she tries to get done. Solutions closer to the user reality spring to mind.

 User Pain Points

Users only know what they have experienced or heard before. They are unable to imagine things that don’t exist yet. If asked directly about innovations or new technologies they are speechless. Customers would never have invented the fax machine if they had been asked about possible alternatives to mail correspondence. Likewise, no customer would have ever thought of using a wrist-watch instead of a wallet for making payments. Asking customers about their opinions on new solutions is likely to lead to marginal improvements at best, or – even worse – to an approximation of existing concepts.

Framing a user exploration from the jobs-to-be-done perspective however, and abstaining from asking about solutions, is a different story. It will reveal what frustrates or delights them, when trying to get a job done. A simple way, leading to eye-opening insights.

Car manufacturer: The task was to explore user needs how to improve car seats. Instead of focusing on the seat itself, JTBD frames it differently, by exploring what happens when sitting down, a typical job that drivers or passengers try to get done. We bet you agree, that things go wrong when doing this: Coins or the mobile phone falls between console and seat, seat belts block or jackets wrinkle when placed on the passenger seat.
Leisure attraction: A global sports association wants to design a leisure site for families with kids. Instead of concentrating on the site and its features, JTBD frames it by the visiting journey. When systematically exploring what happens when queueing and getting in – typical jobs – it becomes clear that toilets for the kids have to be in the entrance area or family belongings need to be stored together in lockers. In retrospect, obvious simple solutions that would have been overlooked.

Breakthrough solutions

Companies tend to focus on their business model and main products. While this is natural, it limits the solution space. Focusing on the solution alone will not unveil the users’ unmet needs. But it’s these unmet needs that innovations have to address to be successful. Jobs-to-be-done however walks through the usage experience from A to Z. It opens up the perspective on those steps before and after the actual usage, which offers interesting opportunities for innovation. Opportunities that are, if not detected, left to other players in the market.

Examples from CFI practice:

Agrochemicals: A company selling seeds, insecticides and fertilisers traditionally focused on – well – seeds and insecticides and fertilizers. But the innovation team felt that farmers have more burning issues than killing insects or growing seeds in nurseries. JTBD expands the scope to the full crop cycle and even beyond,. The job of farmers is more like to make a living or to survive as a family, including find and lease land or to sell the harvest on the market with highest prices.
Leisure attraction: The job of visiting a leisure park with your family does not start with walking around and enjoying. It starts with discussions and planning activities well ahead of the visit. At home at the dinner table, family members propose ideas for a trip, they plan the travel, arrive at the place. are leaving and share memories. In all these steps before and after the visit, many improvement opportunities become obvious and could be addressed.