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What is Jobs to Be Done?

In the world of consumer goods and services, every day can feel like a “race to the moon,” where companies are in constant competition to be the best innovators. Always seeking new ways to disrupt their industry, increase sales, and capture the hearts and minds of their target consumers.

One of the most powerful consumer research approaches to achieve this is known as the Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) framework. The simplest definition of the Jobs to Be Done framework is that consumers don’t buy products or services; instead, consumers “hire” products to complete specific “jobs.”

What makes Jobs to Be Done so effective is that it goes beyond surface-level ideas around what products and services do to unearth deeper consumer needs, desires, and (often unspoken) feelings. Or as Tony Ulwick, one of the minds behind the development of JTBD noted:

“Instead of studying the products and asking people what products they want, let’s talk to them about what they’re trying to achieve and how they measure success at each step of the way.”

That means to do Jobs to Be Done well, you must look beyond pure function.

Understanding the functional vs. emotional vs. social “jobs” to be done

As a creator of consumer goods and services, it can be all too easy to get stuck at the surface of what “jobs” you believe your target customers want you to complete on their behalf. 

For example, if you’re a chain of coffee shops, you may think in quite literal terms about what your buyers want from you – the ability to order a coffee (or related beverage) in the exact way they want it. While this desired outcome may be true, your consumers may have deeper motivations and emotions that they may never admit out loud or proactively share with you if asked:

“Having a complex, sophisticated coffee order makes me feel more in control at the start of each day.”

“I love the feeling of being seen as the writer typing away at a coffee shop all day. It’s how I’ve always imagined myself, writing the next great novel with a hot cup of tea at my side.”

Or perhaps your company is in the home security industry. While the most visible “job” you will need to complete is making someone’s home actually secure against potential thieves, the emotional “jobs” can run much deeper:

“I’ve been the victim of theft before, and I never want to feel that sense of personal violation again. Things can be replaced, but that feeling of true security was so hard to regain.”

“I don’t care if they take my television set, my greatest fear is that something happens to someone in my family; their sense of safety and their actual security is what matters most to me.”

Examples of the Jobs to Be Done framework 

Although Peloton was founded in 2012, its meteoric success during the pandemic is a great example of the dimensions you can find beneath the surface of the “jobs” your consumers are looking for you to complete on their behalf.

Once global quarantine rules went into effect in early 2020, everything about how we lived our lives fundamentally changed – from how we work to how our children learn in school. Peloton’s rise during the COVID-19 pandemic can, in many ways, be attributed to the way it helped consumers complete a wide variety of “jobs”:

  • “I’m frustrated because I miss the in-class experience of working out.”
  • “I care about my health, but I can no longer go to my local gym.”
  • “With everyone home all the time, I’m struggling to find ‘me time.’”
  • “I’m struggling to find ways to feel accomplished and good about myself.”
  • “We’re not even allowed to go outside anymore unless it’s absolutely necessary, but my doctor says I need to keep focused on cardio workouts for my health.”
  • “I see my other coworkers investing in Peloton, and I want to be perceived as in control, healthy, and successful like them.”

Looking outside of the pandemic, another great real-world example of the Jobs to Be Done framework is Venmo. Venmo was certainly not the first way for private individuals to send each other money electronically. However, it did solve a particular job that PayPal had failed to do for many years:

“I just want to exchange money electronically in a way that feels as easy and seamless as handing over $10 to a friend who just bought me a movie ticket.”

The key to great Jobs to Be Done insights is a focus on uncovering the “why” for consumers. Connecting with their underlying motivations, feelings, fears, and goals will help them discover true pathways toward innovation. 

What it takes to do Jobs to Be Done well

For many, the Jobs to Be Done framework is so compelling because it is human and intuitive. As a result, it can seem (at first) to be rather straightforward to apply – as a company, all you need is in-house consumer research capabilities, right?

Well, not quite. In fact, one of the most common myths about Jobs to Be Done is that it’s as simple to implement as it may be to understand. 

The sheer scale of research required to truly uncover the functional, emotional, and social components of JTBD is often prohibitive for in-house marketing and product teams to attempt on their own. A few consumer research surveys or even the most well-constructed focus groups simply won’t do. 

How we do it

At 113 Industries, we use a complex, contemporary blend of methodologies and technologies to deliver actionable insights to our clients including (but not limited to) consumer interviews, social listening, artificial intelligence and machine learning, strategic evaluation of data by our team, and so on. We then deliver those insights by function so the next steps and actions are clear.

So, if you’re looking for a consumer research partner to help you implement the JTBD approach, you’ll want to ask them about their access to data, as well as what types of different methods and technologies they deploy.

In Conclusion

The Jobs to Be Done framework offers invaluable insights to fuel your innovation processes. The jobs theory allows access to a fundamentally deep understanding of customer behavior that will allow your company to optimize outcome-driven innovation.

Traditional market research can only take you so far. In order to truly stand out from your competitors, the ability to achieve unique customer insights can mean the difference between success and failure. Jobs to Be Done provides an understanding of customer needs unavailable to more traditional research methods.

If your goal is to accomplish disruptive innovation and truly maximize the outputs of your product team, there are few better options than incorporating the Jobs to Be Done framework.