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A jobs to be done primer to transform your innovation thinking

Tony Ulwick, Founder of Strategyn and leading proponent of Jobs to be Done (JTBD) theory and innovation thinker extraordinaire, ran a webinar the other day. I could not attend due to the time it was being held but I did watch the recording that was sent out to registrants. Fascinating stuff and here are my notes.

Straw poll results

He ran a straw poll to start with and the answers were interesting and also set up the rest of the talk and focus points. Results in bold at the end of each question.

  1. Is there agreement on your product team as how to best define the markets you serve? Roughly 50/50
  2. Is there agreement on your product team as how to best segment the markets you serve? Roughly two thirds no.
  3. Is there agreement on your product team as to what a customer “need” is? Roughly two thirds no.


JTBD theory in relation to innovation is mostly about having a new perspective and seeing innovation through a different lens. Especially if you need to transform and disrupt your (product, company, industry – select as needed), this is for you. It requires you to replace a solution lens with a problem lens. It contrasts seeing the world of innovation through the lens of what the company is doing (a product perspective). It advocates seeing the world of innovation through the lens of what the customer is trying to get done (a problem perspective).

The famous analogy from JTBD theory is that rather than see the world through the eyes of a drill maker (company and product), see it through that of the hole maker (customer and problem).

People buy products and services to get a job done.

  • Accomplish tasks
  • Achieve goals or objectives
  • Resolve and avoid problems
  • Make progress in their lives

Some more contrasts between JTBD and a company lens

Market definition:

JTBD LENS: A market is a group of people and the job they are trying to get done.

COMPANY LENS: Markets are defined around products, verticals, demographics, etc.

Needs definition:

JTBD LENS: Needs are the measurable outcomes that people want to achieve when getting a job done. Example, when cooking a meal, minimise the time it takes to prepare a meal.

COMPANY LENS: Needs are solutions, benefits, requirements, gains, exciters, specs, latent, etc.

Unmet needs:

DEFINED AS The important, measurable outcomes that people struggle to achieve

Segment definition:

JTBD LENS: Segments are subsets of people in a market, each with a different set of unmet needs.

COMPANY LENS: Segments are personas, use cases, people with different attitudes, demographics, etc.

Innovation Definition:

The process of devising a solution that gets a job done better / more cheaply.

In summary, you have a process (see below) that will allow you to conceptualize products you know—with certainty—will win in the marketplace BEFORE development begins.

The rest of the webinar is mostly about success Strategyn have had with customers (great examples given) and how to implement the ODI process.

I love this framework for so many reasons. I’ve written about if before as part of the research I did for my As a Service trend report in this post: As a Service trend research – customer solutions. As I said in the post about the JTBD framework: A framework for understanding customer needs, if ever there was an approach intended to help find solutions to customer problems or needs, this is it. So moving towards customer solutions, as opposed to having a product or company lens, that is crucial for all kinds of success going forward, least of all for innovation.

And also in that article and indeed the JTBD framework, is the business outcomes focus which I am also enamoured of and write about a lot.

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