What is Jobs-to-be-Done?

Jobs-to-be-Done is the most powerful approach in innovation management. It offers a new perspective in looking at markets, customers, needs, segments and competitors and enables companies to find growth opportunities that are hidden to others.

A new perspective to broaden the innovation horizon

In his famous quote innovation pioneer Theodore Levitt puts Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) theory in a nutshell: “People don’t want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.” We go even further and claim: “People don’t want a quarter inch hole, they want to hang a picture on the wall.” This example outlines the fundamentals of JTBD theory: people hire products and services to get the job done. They will choose the product or service that helps them get a job done better and/or more cheaply.

While focusing on the product or the customer will merely result in a better quarter inch drill, the strategy and innovation process is dramatically improved by finding better ways to help customers hang a picture on the wall to get the job done. By making the customer’s job, rather than the product or the customer, the unit of analysis, we’ve made it possible for companies to achieve predictable growth. The vehicle for this is our patented Outcome-Driven Innovation® process.

JTBD hole in the wall

“People don’t want a quarter inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” Theodore Levitt

The core tenets of JTBD

Jobs-to-be-done theory is grounded on three basic assumptions:

  • People buy products and services to help them get a job done.
    People “hire” products and services to get a specific job done. For example, construction worker do not want to steer a wheel loader, they want to move material on a construction site. Nurses do not want to administer a syringe, they want to maintain the health of their patients. Passengers do not want to call a taxi, they want to get from destination A to B.
  • The “job” – and not the product or the customer – is the unit of analysis.
    While products and product categories evolve, the customer’s job-to-be-done is stable over time. Focusing on this stable unit of analysis enables companies to identify customer needs that are stable over time as well. These customer needs are clearly defined desired outcomes, and thus they are actionable targets for value creation.
  • A “job” lens brings a new perspective to strategy and innovation.
    Jobs-to-be-done results in growth strategies that build on long-term customer needs with the greatest value creation potential. That’s the secret with which we make innovation predictable and achieve success rates of 86% for our client’s innovation activities.

How Jobs-to-be-Done is implemented

In Jobs-to-be-Done theory, a market is defined as a group of people (= job executor) with a common job-to-be-done. Disassembling a job-to-be-done into discrete job steps helps identifying the metrics customers use to measure the successful execution of each job step. These metrics, called outcome statements, are then quantified to discover potential for value creation.

The Jobs-to-be-Done perspective is practically implemented by the Outcome-Driven Innovation® process. The ODI Process helps to understand what the customer’s needs of a company are, which are unmet, if segments of customers exist with unique sets of unmet needs, and to build a sound growth strategy out of it. With these targets well defined, innovation will become a perfectly controllable business process.

Read more in our Blog: “JTBD is the talk of the town” from Gerald Steinwender. 

Learn more about Outcome-Driven Innovation ®
Information from our partner Strategyn: jobs-to-be-done.com


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