Jobs-to-Be-Done, a Transformative Framework in Create Demand-Driven Innovation


“Jobs-to-be-done” helps you build products that people are willing to pay for

What is “Jobs-to-be-done”?

For short, Jobs-to-be-done, or JTBD, was introduced by Professor Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, and discussed by experts and business executives.

TJTBD explains that customers do not buy a product just to buy it, but to use the product to meet a need or do a task. Other people have expressed this concept in different ways. For example, in the 19th century, Thomas Edison said, “I do not want to invent something that is not for sale.” Selling something shows that it is practical and useful, and that means success.

In the 1960s, Theodore Levitt, a Harvard Business School professor, made a famous and influential statement. “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill; they want a quarter-inch hole,” he said. In other words, to be successful, one must focus on the customer’s needs instead of the product.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs argued that product development should start with the customer experience and return to technology. “Always start with the customer experience, not with the technology,” he says. In fact, the job-to-be-done is the customer experience—one of the reasons for Apple’s remarkable success in producing demanded products.

Jobs-to-be-done theory provides a more in-depth and realistic view than the “Lean Startup Method” in understanding customers’ problems and needs.  It does not easily skip this critical part of a business because it considers the customer needs the most fundamental reason for a company’s formation and success.

Successful companies worldwide, including Apple, McDonald’s, Bosch, Go Further, Intercom, and Arm & Hammer, use TJTBD to innovate.


Why is Jobs-to-be-Done effective?

Despite the high cost and time spent on production and advertising, numerous new products and services are not successful.  Product roadmaps are full of different ideas that cause team members to disagree about customer needs – rather than build effective and practical solutions.

Developers spend a lot of time in meetings where members discuss whether to add or remove a particular feature to a product. On the other hand, business goals change over time, making it difficult or even impossible to pursue success.

The Jobs-to-be-Done framework helps you focus your team around specific goals that lead to success. Through JTBD, you will understand how many people have a common demand, how basic is their need, and how much they are willing to pay to meet it. It also helps you fully understand the customer’s situation and discover business opportunities you may have missed.


As Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, puts it: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” In other words, do not ask customers what products they want; ask them about the need and work they want to do (the goal they wish to achieve) and what difficulties they face while doing this.

An example of a Jobs-to-be-done

To clarify this concept, here, we explain JTBD with an example.

One of the Jobs-to-be-done by customers of a pizzeria is to: Eat a reasonably priced meal that is quick to prepare outside the home with the family. So what a pizza shop owner needs to do should be to meet these demands.

Three indicators are needed to define a Jobs-to-be-done properly:

  • Be careful not to describe a job or activity. The primary purpose of someone who wants to buy a specific size drill is not to buy it. Instead, his goal is to install a favorite picture frame on the wall to improve his life after using the drill.
  • Describe how the customer did the job or met the need in the past. What better solutions do you have to solve it?
  • Examine what motivates the customer? Nothing is done without motivation; it is essential to understand the right stimuli to persuade the customer to buy or use your service.

The last word

Adopting new technologies can improve the way you do things. But your focus should be on understanding the main task, not falling in love with your solution. If you look at innovation through the Jobs-to-be-done theory lens, what you see at the innovation center is not the customers but their demands.

JTBD theory provides a powerful way to understand the mechanism of customer behavior that is the primary driver of an innovation’s success. Properly defined work is the key to success in design. Identifying and understanding what needs to be done is critical, but it is the starting point. Once you have unveiled the works and understood them, you should turn them into a guide to developing your favorite products and services.

Further reading: Getting to know the customer better with the JTBD framework

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