The Jobs to be Done Approach (JTBD) and Disruptive Innovation

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Disruptive Innovation > Best Practices > The Jobs to be Done Approach (JTBD) and Disruptive Innovation

The Jobs to be Done Approach (JTBD) and Disruptive Innovation
Akshay Nirmal, Business Consultant, Australia, Premium Member
The theory of disruptive innovation helps companies navigate threats coming from their external environment. However, it fails to explain what companies should do to innovate.
Traditionally, companies segment their markets by customer demographics or product characteristics and differentiate their offerings by adding features and functions.

The theory of “Jobs to be Done” (JTBD) can be closely related to the theory of disruption and provides a tool to come up with disruptive strategies. Building on earlier work by Tony Ulwick on Outcome Driven Innovation, Clayton Christensen argues that when customers buy a product from suppliers, what they REALLY want is to hire them to do a job. So we should think of ideas that make this job for the customer more simple, faster, better, more convenient, more fun or cheaper.
Understanding such 'jobs to be done' can give better, original insights to companies about which products or services they should offer. Furthermore, knowing how a job can be done in a better way than before can also help firms creating a better customer experience. This is where technology comes to the picture.

Theodore Levitt already said over 50 years ago: “People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole". But if you think further about it, what they really want is to decorate their room by hanging a painting on the wall.
Another example is booking a room to stay for a night when you're abroad. The related 'job' is done better by a disruptive innovation than it was done before by traditional hotels and travel agencies for customers that want to enjoy independent travel, stay in affordable accommodations with locals and feel like a local when I travel. The disruptive innovation was Airbnb.

The approach consists approximately of 4 main steps:
  1. Define the jobs-to-be-done of the customer.
  2. Make the customer describe the end result of each job-to-be-done.
  3. Split each job-to-be-done into successive activities.
  4. Consider in what way your customer's job can be made easier, etc.
The theory of disruptive innovation explains whether an innovation will sustain in the market or not. It also gives insights about threats present in the market.
The theory of “Jobs to be Done” helps innovation managers of companies to think up how to innovate and what products, services and experience to offer to do a job a customer needs to have performed in a better way.

Christensen, C., Hall, T., Dillon, K. and Duncan, D. (2016). Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”. Harvard Business Review, (September 2016).
Dillon, K. (2016). What Airbnb Understands About Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”. Harvard Business Review, (August 2016)

Jobs To Be Done Approach
srinivas, Lecturer, India, Member
To me, the jobs to be done approach is useful where the processes are relatively stable and continual improvement is done by measuring the metrics. On the other side of the same coin called sustenance of organization there are disruptive innovations that are going on by way of audit feedback and processes are relatively unstable. Here agile methodology will be of use. Unless both sides of the coin are sharp, an organization won't sustain for long.

Jobs To be Done is about What They Say versus What They Think
Jeff Washburn, Strategy Consultant, United States, Member
The real advantage is not in making improvements in products for customers.
As Akshay points out, they say that they want a 1/4 inch drill, but they think that they want a 1/4 inch hole. There is ambiguity in the statement of, "I want a 1/4 inch" drill." If you opt to give them 1/4 inch drill, then you accept the statement at face value without looking at what they are imagining. A beautiful painting hanging in the perfect spot, for example.
The best way to get the information that you really need for innovation is to ask for stories; not only the ones of how they used your product. Then parse the stories for patterns; the obvious and the hidden. Even better is to witness customers that are shopping for, using your, repairing or replacing your product.
What you are trying to do with JTBD is to fill the (sometimes big) gap between What They Say and Think.

Jobs to be Done Approach is a Bit Like Lateral Thinking
Ivan Kohlinsky, Management Consultant, United Kingdom, Member
I found this very interesting, but can't really add much. In some ways it is akin to 'Lateral Thinking', but technically is more 'vertical thinking', but not in a simplistic way; looking behind the 'need'.
Dare I also bring 'Systems Thinking' into this!
Editor: 😃You just did.

Customer Focus of Staff Needed for JTBD
Morriss, HR professional, Australia, Member
Empathy and good listening skills are required from the staff to understand the customer's point of view.
Organizational systems that enable sharing new perspectives can lead to new solutions.

Jobs to Be Done is Thinking Ahead
umarani, HR Consultant, India, Member
In my opinion, Jobs to be Done Theory really helps an organisation to think how to develop its processes to address customers requirements, desires and wishes in an innovative way.
When organisations are looking forward for long term, sustainable development such an approach is required… To think ahead about the customers in the market market. Until other firms copy your formula 😉.

6 Basic Ideas Behind the Jobs to Be Done Theory
Annalisa Cordoba, Manager, Spain, Member
Hi, I found following 6 basic 'tenants' of Jobs To Be done Theory in an interesting article by Anthony Ulwick, a pioneer of jobs-to-be-done theory:
  1. People buy products and services to get a “job” done.
  2. Products that win in the marketplace help customers get a job done better and/or more cheaply.
  3. A job-to-be-done is stable over time, making it an attractive unit of analysis.
  4. Understanding the job-to-be-done provides a new avenue for understanding customer needs.
  5. A job-to-be-done is functional and has emotional and social jobs associated with it.
  6. A job-to-be-done is always a process (to make progress).
Source: Getting Started With Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, Anthony Ulwick, The Marketing Journal, January 13, 2017.

Job to Be Done is about Customer Experiences
Neilson Asiedu, Strategy Consultant, United States, Member
Job to be Done identifies the first step in creating good quality products with attributes that customers want, based on their specifics and on what price they are willing to pay.
Customers' preferences and/or experiences lie in the revelation of what they really want, the size, quality, functionality that meet their specifics.
The disruption theory doesn't tell how to create products and services that customers want to buy. The JTBD approach does and transforms the understanding of customers’ choice leading to quality, sizes, and its attributes.
Making it easier for a customer, organizations must learn from those who have already bought the products and ask them how they use it. Interviews and analytic research will expose customers’ preferences based on their specifics. These processes will help innovation managers or organizations think of how to design innovative products, services to meet the market.

Simply: Means to Ends
Aaron Agassi, Member
An objectives may be a goal (end) in and of itselve, or a means to achieve some other end. This is nothing new. And to know where and when to be flexible and when less so, it will be important to distinguish means from ends or desired outcomes. This seems self-evident.

Of course, possible means may offer different cost benefit scenarios, some will be more optimal than others. And this is empirically supported, because it happens every day. To define ends or desired outcomes, a problem statement may be helpful, assuming, of course, that the ends or desired outcome are meant to improve circumstances howsoever deemed suboptimal. But then, that seems tautological to the nature of desired outcomes.

So, yes, seeking a problem statement from the customer may be only prudent.

But is any objective ever truly ever an end in and of itself? People don't want a drill, and they don't want the hole either: They want to peep into the shower stall! And whatever they hope to derive therefrom in an individual case, well exceeds the scope of this discussion thread. But it does offer all manner of opportunity for profitable innovation.

Use of Jobs2Bdone in Prediction and Practice
Rick Mueller, Professor, United States, SIG Leader
@Aaron Agassi: In the final lines or your response you come far closer to the answer than you may realize.

People don't want a hole in the wall. They may want transparency (as you suggested), or a conduit for electrical (or other) energy, or something to be lighter in weight, or... ... much of which might be best addressed with something other than a quarter-inch drill

And whereas that may seem on the face of it as an intractable dichotomy to solve within the scope of a discussion thread, it is not, and once solved takes you directly to disruptive innovation!

For more detail (and this invitation is open to all), feel free to download and take a quick read through this paper by myself.

This discussion can still become more substantive. Let's discuss further and add in more perspectives to JTBD….

Functional Analysis and Value Analysis
Olaf de Hemmer, Business Consultant, France, Member
Clay Christensen rediscovered (in the marketing area) what is implemented since the '50s in the purchasing and product design areas: products answer 'functions' (the job they do) to answer users' needs. This is called "functional analysis" and has been used for marketing for dozens of years.
This rediscovery IS GREAT NEWS! This means other corporate departments can use the same mindset, if not the same tools. "Valeur(s) & Management" is a group of European experts in different corporate performance domains working on creating synergies between methods developed in these fields that share this specific point of view: before looking for a (better) solution, check "What is it for?" + WITH the stakeholders, then: "What is enough?" to fulfill these goals/objectives/needs.
Interested? See our LinkedIn group Valeur(s) & Management (in French + English):

Special Interest Group Leader
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