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

Disruptive Innovation
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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)

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