Better Understand Customers through their Jobs to be Done

There is a lot of talk about Jobs to be Done lately, given the popularity of Clayton Christensen’s latest book on innovation, Competing Against Luck. But what many don’t realize is Jobs theory has been around for over 20 years, first popularized in the 1990’s by Christensen and his colleagues at Harvard Business School.  Through the years, Jobs theory has been applied to innovation efforts at many companies in varied industries, either through concrete Jobs to be Done frameworks or simply adapted as a way of thinking.

Core to Jobs theory is that innovation shouldn’t be focused on the product or solution. Instead, innovation should center on the specific needs customers have that would drive them to choose that product or solution. For your customers, the job – or the problem they need to solve – doesn’t change, but the solution they may hire to do the job can evolve over time.  For example, many people have a job around “remember all the things I need to get done today”.  30 years ago many addressed that job by using a pencil and a “to do” notebook or planner.  Now many use smartphone apps such as TeuxDeux or MinimaList. The solutions are varied and evolving, but the core job has remained the same.

At Clearworks, we like Jobs to Be Done because it’s a simple, straightforward way to frame a discussion with customers and get to the heart of what they are looking for. We help our clients steer away from talking about features and functions and instead talk about what customers are looking to accomplish and what problems they are trying to solve. Framing the conversation in this way leads to a richer discussion about drivers, motivators and goals that allow you to then look at solutions in new ways.

Anne Bakstad
anne@clearworks.net

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