Jobs to Be Done: How to Improve Your Innovation Success Rate

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There has been a flurry of activity in the world of Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) with three separate books coming out in the last quarter of 2016, so I thought I'd go over what I've learned recently.

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My interest in Jobs to Be Done goes back to the $300 House project.  Most companies designing products for the poor don't pay enough attention to the needs and outcomes the poor are trying to achieve.  In a separate article, Abhijit De and I explored the ecosystems of poverty, trying to see how poverty is caused by a range of issues that create a vicious cycle of failure and how these problems are all interrelated. 

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We even did some research on the needs of the poor - with Three Headed Lion doing a field survey for us.  At the time I did not know enough about JTBD, and so I combined the "observation" approach along with a rudimentary questionnaire to see what we could learn about their needs.  We did learn a few things that we were able to share with Indian businesses that were working on designing affordable housing.  Now, looking back, I wish I had used Jobs to Be Done. 

So what is Jobs to Be Done?

The best advice on Jobs to Be Done comes to us from the originator of the concept, Anthony Ulwick and his company Strategyn:

"stop studying the product and instead study the job that people are trying to get done. By making the job, rather than the product or the customer, the unit of analysis, we've made it possible for companies to achieve predictable growth."

Jobs-to-be-done theory tells us about customers, strategy, products and how managers should think about business, growth and innovation. The theory tells companies to heed the following bits of advice:

  • Define your markets around the job-to-be-done. 
  • Help customers get the entire job done. 
  • Help customers get more jobs done. 
  • Design a business around a job-to-be-done. 
  • Target those who will pay the most to get the job done best. 
  • Focus R&D and M&A efforts on getting a customer job done better. 

A full description of JTBD is here >>

There seems to be some confusion as to where JTBD came from, but if you dig in, you'll find that in his book The Innovator's Solution, Christensen  acknowledges his debt to Ulwick:

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There's even a video of Ulwick and Christensen chatting up the concept.

Which books should you read?

Clay's book explains the Theory of Jobs to be Done, while Ulwick's book specifically talks about translating Jobs Theory to Practice-- a process he's focused on with Strategyn for 25 years --with over 400 companies.  

It's a good idea to read both books, along with Ulwick's previous bestseller: What Customers Want.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing co-author Taddy Hall [here] and Professor Christensen [here].  And I've worked with Tony Ulwick to get more insight into Jobs to Be Done, specifically using "JTBD @ the BoP."

Jobs to Be Done at the Base of the Pyramid

How should businesses build products and services for the poorest of the poor?  

I asked Tony to give us some insights here, and he very kindly wrote Innovation at the Base of the Pyramid: Using Jobs-to-be-Done to Launch Successful Products (Green Leap Review).  

The usefulness of Ulwick's Jobs to Be Done Needs Assessment Framework shines through:

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For the poor, the related jobs, emotional jobs, consumption chain jobs and financial outcomes are far more critical. Companies that understand that will succeed at the Base of the Pyramid, explains Ulwick.

That's my take on Jobs to Be Done.  There's plenty of work ahead for all of us, if we understand JTBD.


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This page contains a single entry by Christian Sarkar published on February 5, 2017 11:52 AM.

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