He is the author of Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice (IDEA BITE PRESS, October 2016), “What Customers Want” (McGraw-Hill) and numerous articles in Harvard Business Review and Sloan Management Review.
Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, when applied effectively, makes innovation five times more predictable.
Our 25-year track record applying the theory with our Outcome-Driven Innovation process (ODI) offers that evidence—and it is no surprise as to why it works. Jobs-to-be-Done Theory offers a foundation for addressing the three key questions companies must answer correctly when trying to make innovation more predictable:
(1) What are the customers needs?
(2) Which needs are unmet?
(3) Are there segments of customers with unique sets of unmet needs?
With this knowledge companies can more effectively position and improve their existing products and create altogether new products that customers will want.
The qualitative and quantitative research methods we have developed as part of the ODI process are effective and precise at answering these questions. The process begins with the discovery of the 100+ metrics customers use to measure success when getting a job done. Each desired outcome statement is then prioritized by a statistically valid sample of representative customers so we can determine which outcomes are underserved and if segments of customers exist with different unmet needs.
As the benefits of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory are becoming more apparent, companies, entrepreneurs and prospective practitioners have been eager to put the theory into practice. In doing so, many have created or adopted their own practices, that unbeknownst to them, are likely to fail. One such practice is of particular concern.
New books and articles on the subject are leading users to believe that putting the theory into practice simply means discovering or defining the job or jobs that the customer is trying to get done. While this is an important step in our ODI process, it is just the first step in a more complex process. Discovering what job the customer is trying to get done only helps to define the market to target. Knowing what the job-to-be-done is does not tell you what the customers needs are at the level of granularity needed to make innovation more predictable. Nor does it tell you which of those 100-plus needs are unmet or if unique underserved or overserved segments of customers exist.
Despite this fact, I see many instances where companies and entrepreneurs believe that knowing the customer’s job, and creating a job story around that job to add context, will increase their chances for success. Going from a “compelling job story” to ideation to concept testing is their goal, but following this approach is unlikely to lead to predictable innovation because it fails to provide answers to the questions that make innovation more predictable.
A job story is really just a glorified persona—a story of a customer’s observed functional and emotional jobs built around qualitative data, void of the quantified details that make it a real target. Just as segments of customers defined around demographic and psychographic data are phantom segments, so are those built around a qualitative-based job story.
What are the chances that a job story will correctly define a segment of customers with 15 unmet needs without the quantitative data needed to discover the segment or the unmet needs?
Realistically, they are near zero.
There really is no shortcut to predictable innovation. Without the quantitative data needed for success, innovation remains a guessing game.
So where should companies, entrepreneurs and prospective practitioners start?
Applying Jobs-to-be-Done Theory effectively begins with defining the customer’s job-to-be-done at the right level of abstraction. The job should be defined as a functional job and the other types of customer needs (related jobs, emotional jobs, consumption chain jobs, etc.) should be defined around the core job.
Once the job is defined, create a job map—a step-by-step breakdown of exactly what the customer is trying to get done. The details of how and why to create the job map were first introduced in the 2008 Harvard Business Review article The Customer-Centered Innovation Map.
With the job map defined, a company is ready to discover the metrics customers use to measure success while executing each step of the job. These metrics (specially constructed need statements called desired outcomes) are the customer’s desired outcomes. Defined correctly, they serve as the perfect input into the innovation process. The method for defining these outcome statements was introduced in the 2008 MIT Sloan Management Review article Giving Customers a Fair Hearing.
A practical way to start is to use the Jobs-to-be-Done Needs Framework described in detail in Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice:
With these steps covered, a company can agree on what a need is and what the customer’s needs are. Then it is ready to discover which needs are unmet and if segments of customers exist with unique sets of unmet outcomes. This approach brings predictability to a historically chaotic and wasteful practice.