JTBD is the Talk of the Town – but Only Outcome-Driven Innovation® Gets the Whole Job Done

In recent years, we’ve noticed an increasing interest in and demand for Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) thinking. Not only in its region of origin, the United States, but also throughout Europe and other regions. More and more Innovation and Strategy consultants offer services based on JTBD thinking, and a growing number of news and blog articles have been published on this topic, and a viable discussion is going on online and offline. Interested persons may get confused when observing all these developments, as the term “Jobs-to-be-Done thinking” is used to refer to different things depending on the particular area of innovation philosophy in question. As a consequence, the meaning may vary from one person to another. For this reason we want to give an overview and explain why Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI) is the best methodology for putting Jobs-to-be-Done theory into practice.

Product-centric vs. customer-centric JTBD approaches
In 1999 Anthony W. Ulwick introduced the Outcome-Driven Innovation® concept to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, who coined the term “Jobs-to-be-Done theory” and popularized it in his book “The Innovator’s Solution” in 2003. Since then, both masterminds have developed the methodology further, giving the term JTBD completely different meanings.

For Clayton Christensen (and followers of his approach), a job-to-be-done can be identified by discovering and analyzing unique circumstances of product use. They define a market as a group of people using the same product, and then raise context information to identify the JTBD behind and build segments accordingly. In order to increase sales for a chain restaurant, Christensen for example analyzed morning commuters who buy a milkshake. He found out that most of them faced a long, boring commute and needed something to keep themselves busy (this is what Christensen calls the job-to-be-done). With this knowledge in mind, the chain restaurant could invent a milkshake that fits these unique circumstances: a milkshake with a thicker texture to last through a long commute and containing chunks of fruit to be more “interesting”. A related methodology to that of Christensen are the “Switch Interviews” developed by Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek. The target of these interviews is to analyze buyers who have switched to/from a product and to determine the obstacles of purchase as well as the circumstances that finally led to the purchase.

For Antony W. Ulwick, these approaches fall short and fail to create groundbreaking innovations. In contrast to Christensen and his camp, in the Outcome-Driven Innovation® process the job-to-be-done of the user or executor is the focal unit of analysis (and not the product). Defining a market as a group of people with a common job-to-be-done, the JTBD is disassembled into job steps to identify a complete set of customer needs. These customer needs are then quantified to discover segments according to need structures in the market. This customer-centric (rather than product-centric) approach enables the innovation horizon to be increased, as not only products of the same category compete, but all kinds of products and services that get a certain job done. It also allows one to identify segments that reflect the natural structures of a market. For anyone who wants to delve deeper into the two different approaches, we recommend two articles by Anthony W. Ulwick: Jobs-to-be-Done Is For More Than Just Milkshakes and Outcome-Based Market Segmentation Outperforms Milkshake Marketing.

Another customer-centric JTBD approach was developed by Alexander Osterwalder in 2014, when he integrated the methodology in his famous Value Proposition Design Canvas. In Osterwalder’s concept, customer jobs are part of the customer profile section, alongside pains (= risks and obstacles related to customer jobs) and gains (= benefits related to customer jobs). To create a coherent value proposition, the value elements a company delivers should be tied to the customer’s jobs, pains and gains.

Outcome-Driven Innovation® puts Jobs-to-be-Done Theory into practice
We appreciate that Jobs-to-be-Done thinking is spreading innovation theory and is being picked up by leading minds, and we are also open to discussing different viewpoints. But at this point we want to emphasize what sets Outcome-Driven Innovation® apart, because in our opinion it is the only approach that “gets the whole job done”: to create growth by uncovering what customers want.

  1. Outcome-Driven Innovation® is a customer-centric innovation approach: At the beginning of the ODI process, the customer’s job-to-be-done is identified and acts as the focal point throughout the whole process. A customer’s JTBD is for example “Move material on a construction site” or “Insert medication into the peripheral venous system”. This definition is free from any solutions (that means products and services) and enables us to view the market from a new perspective.
  2. Outcome-Driven Innovation® reveals customer needs at a granular level: In the second step of the ODI process, the customer’s needs are identified through in-depth interviews with job executors. Antony W. Ulwick developed a comprehensive Jobs-to-be-Done Needs framework to identify all types of needs in their comprehensiveness (usually 100-150 needs) and on a highly granular level. A customer need (or outcome, as it is called in the ODI process,) is for example “Minimize the likelihood that visibility constraints result in damage to the construction site” or “Minimize the time it takes to establish peripheral venous access in an emergency situation”. This clearly defined syntax ensures that needs are defined in an unambiguous, actionable manner and can be communicated throughout different departments without loss of precision.
  3. Outcome-Driven Innovation® is grounded in statistically valid data: While understanding all the customer’s needs ensures the ODI process is customer-centric, quantifying them ensures the process is data-driven. Therefore, the identified needs are quantified through a large-scale survey to reveal the level of satisfaction and importance for every single need and to find potentials for sustainable growth as well as for disruptive innovation.
  4. Outcome-Driven Innovation® segments around customer needs: The most effective way to identify segments that have homogenous needs and that are mutually exclusive is to segment around customer needs. Using factor and cluster analysis, ODI uncovers segments worth pursuing even in markets that seem saturated at first glance.
  5. Outcome-Driven Innovation® informs growth decisions for years to come: While products evolve, the underlying job-to-be-done persists. The ODI process was not designed to optimize operative design decisions; it delivers a comprehensive, predictive data model that guides strategic decisions and focuses activities throughout the whole company, from product management, R&D, sales & marketing to innovation management and new business development.

These are the main five points that differentiate Outcome-Driven Innovation® from other JTBD approaches. Together with our partner Strategyn, we at Edizon are constantly developing the methodology further so that we can help our clients uncover what their customers really want in the future as well. The latest advancement in the theory is captured well in Strategyn’s Jobs-to-be-Done Growth Strategy Matrix. Join the discussion or share your suggestions with us! Just write a short message to info@edizon-innovation.com.


JTBD Strategy Class , 10. Nov, 2021


A new “Jobs-to-be-Done” Viewpoint on Strategy for Discovery & Quantification of Hidden Opportunities for Value Creation and Innovation. …

The Innovators Talk , 02. Dec, 2021


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