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

Disruptive Innovation
Knowledge Center

Akshay Nirmal
Business Consultant, Australia

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

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)

  Paramathmuni srinivas Kumar

Jobs To Be Done Approach

To me, the jobs to be done approach is useful where the processes are relatively stable and continual improvement is don...

  Jeff Washburn
Strategy Consultant, United States

Jobs to be Done is About what they Say versus what they Think

The real advantage is not in making improvements in products for customers. As Akshay points out, they say that they wa...

  Ivan Kohlinsky
Management Consultant, United Kingdom

Jobs to be Done Approach is a Bit Like Lateral Thinking

I found this very interesting, but can't really add much. In some ways it is akin to 'Lateral Thinking', but technically...

HR professional, Australia

Customer Focus of Staff Needed for JTBD

Empathy and good listening skills are required from the staff to understand the customer's point of view. Organizationa...

HR Consultant, India

Jobs to Be Done is Thinking Ahead

In my opinion, Jobs to be Done Theory really helps an organisation to think how to develop its processes to address cust...

  Annalisa Cordoba
Manager, Spain

6 Basic Ideas Behind the Jobs to Be Done Theory

Hi, I found following 6 basic 'tenants' of Jobs To Be done Theory in an interesting article by Anthony Ulwick, a pioneer...

  Neilson Asiedu
Strategy Consultant, United States

Job to Be Done is about Customer Experiences

Job to be Done identifies the first step in creating good quality products with attributes that customers want, based on...

  Aaron Agassi

Simply: Means to Ends

An objective may be a goal (end) in and of itselve, or a means to achieve some other end. This is nothing new. And to kn...

  Rick Mueller
Professor, United States

Use of Jobs2Bdone in Prediction and Practice

@Aaron Agassi: In the final lines or your response you come far closer to the answer than you may realize. People don...

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

From JTBD to a Successful Personal Transformation?

According to Bettencourt et al. companies are focusing too much on the quality, convenience, or experience of their offe...

  Dr. Alan Williams
Professor, Thailand

Jobs to be Done / Innovation

As a consultant I've advised / suggested structured systems to several companies on this subject and when I came in as a...

  Maurice Hogarth
Consultant, United Kingdom

Deep Level Thinking About your Product-Service Mix

@Akshay Nimal: This point: "People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole". But if you t...


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