JoJTBD theory is foundational to innovation, but to the best of my knowledge it’s rarely used to help shape career and professional development. That’s a miss.

“When people find themselves needing to get a job done, they essentially hire products to do that job for them,” he wrote. “If a marketer can understand the job, design a product and associated experiences in purchase and use to do that job, and deliver it in a way that reinforces its intended use, then when customers find themselves needing to get that job done, they will hire that product.” – Clayton Christensen, Father of Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) theory.

A summary of JTBD theory

Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) states that people hire products to solve their problems and achieve their goals. This is obvious – yes.

But magic unfolds when you take a step back and 1/take the customer perspective rather than looking at problems with your solution already in mind, and 2/deconstruct the steps the customer must go through to achieve their goal.

“People do not want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.” – Theodore Levitt. Customers don’t care about your solution, they care about solving their problem. You need to start from the customer to be successful in innovation.

The same goes for employment. Employers don’t care about your skills, experience, and backgrounds, they care about achieving their goals.

Deconstructing the steps the customer must go through to achieve their desired outcome and defining where the biggest struggles occur is a surefire way to unlock innovation opportunity.

The generally agreed universal job-map consists of 8 steps: 1/define, 2/locate, 3/prepare, 4/confirm, 5/execute, 6/monitor, 7/modify and 8/conclude.

When working with customers I often simplify the job map to a mere 3 steps: 1/Before doing the actual thing you are trying to do (before step 5 in the 8-step process), 2/Doing the actual thing you are trying to do (roughly steps 5-7 in the 8-step process), and 3/After doing the actual thing you are trying to do, including the learnings and reflections so that you’ll be able to do it faster, better, more precisely next time (step 8 in the 8-step process).

JTBD theory suggests that innovation efforts should focus on helping the customer achieve their goal faster, cheaper, and more precisely. Products often demonstrate strengths in certain parts of the job-map (ex.: step 5 – the execute step), and have room for improvement across the other steps. JTBD innovation theory states that you products should innovate across the job-steps, the goal being to help the customer achieve their goal with one solution rather than requiring them to use multiple tools. This same thinking can be applied to guiding your career.

Call to action for using JTBD to guide your career

Define what your employer has hired you to do. Don’t start with “You” (the quarter-inch drill), work backwards from your employers goals for which they’ve hired you (the quarter-inch hole). Example: Hired you to generate revenue for a highly technical product.

Define the biggest struggles across the job-map (before, during, after, 8-step process) your employer has in achieving their goal. Example struggles (purely made up) across the steps of achieving the entire goal: a/find the relevant customer, b/contacting and communicate to potential customers so they generate interest in your product, c/upselling customers.

Prioritize and generate solution ideas for the biggest struggles across the job-steps. Example for “c/upselling customers” might be a/upselling module for success managers, b/automated upsell alerts, c/discount program, d/AI solution that detects most likely to buy more, e/compensation and incentive solution that makes Sellers upsell as part of or after the actual sale. An example of such Seller solution could be 7 day discount on products bought beyond the core product with the highest discount right when the core sale is closed.

Look at the solutions, define, and choose which capabilities you need to learn/build/partner with to drive this forward. Example: If you were to own the creation and roll-out of the discount program mentioned above, you’d likely require you to learn more about a/financial modeling, b/data mining and analysis, c/marketing.

Similar to how customers typically prefer the products that help them do more of their job with the least number of tools, the same can be argued for employers.

JTBD is useful when considering what skills to develop next. I’ve personally struggled to define where I should put my focus. As with most things in life, there is no silver bullet, but JTBD helps me to more tactically define where I could consider putting more effort.

Question: I’m curious how many of you are using JTBD to guide your careers, and if you’ve had any insights that would be useful to share for others to learn?