Long Pressed #5: Hunting For Jobs (To Be Done)

We know that data isn’t a proxy for our users as individuals. That correlation does not imply causation. That designing a product for the average person is designing a product for nobody. So where do we start if we want to learn about people, the causes underlying their choices, and what we should build for them? We think the answer starts with this week’s pattern - Hunting For Jobs (To Be Done).


The Jobs-to-be-Done framework, made famous by Clayton Christensen & Bob Moesta focuses deeply on understanding your customers' struggle for progress and the causal mechanisms of their behaviors.

It's a beautifully simple metaphor - a "job" is defined as the progress that a customer desires to make in a particular circumstance. Customers buy or "hire" a product for the specific job. When they hire a new product, they fire an existing one.

When practicing the framework within our business, we need to use techniques that expose customers' underlying job requirements. We need to understand the functional, social and emotional dimensions that go into the hiring decision. And we need to understand the trade offs the customer is willing to make.

The solution lies not in the tools you're using, but what you are looking for and how you piece your observations together. If you can spot barriers to progress or frustrating experiences, you've found the first clues that an innovation opportunity is at hand. - Clayton Christensen, Competing Against Luck

Where the hunt begins

So how do we practice this framework within our business? According to Christensen, a good place to start is with asking yourself these questions

  • Do you understand the real reason why your customers choose your products or services? Or why they choose something else instead?

  • How do your products or services help your customers to make progress in their lives? Where are they trying to make progress?

  • What is competing with your products and services to address these jobs?

Hunting For Jobs

What they hire - and equally important - what they fire - tells a story.

The high-level goal is to expose the underlying functional, social, and emotional reasons why someone hires a product.

Finding a job close to home

Understanding the unresolved jobs in your own life can provide fertile territory for innovation. Some of the most successful innovations in history have derived from introspection.

Workarounds and compensating behavior

You can learn as much from people who aren't hiring, as you can from those who are. This "nonconsumption" often represents the most fertile opportunities for innovation. What compensating behavior are these nonconsumers taking to make progress? These folks have literally invented their own solution to their problem.

Look for what people don’t want to do

Christensen calls these "negative jobs." For example, the hassle and huge time investment that comes with visiting the doctor for routine treatment, is a job people don't want to do. The emergence of the pharmacy clinic (i.e. CVS MinuteClinic) is an innovation born from that job.

Unusual Uses

Closely study how customers use your products, especially those uses that are unusual and unexpected. Often companies can find growth opportunities where it never seemed possible. Christensen's example here is the story of Arm & Hammer's iconic baking soda. The company thought their product only fit within the "baking" category. They realized they had new growth opportunities hiding in pain sight after observing customers hiring their baking soda for deodorizing refrigerators, keeping swimming pools clean, freshening carpets, and removing shower stains.

The “Emotional Score”

In our experience, this is most often missed at most companies, and yet, it's probably the most powerful in terms of results. We would recommend checking out the further reading section below on this one, but the summary is that you need to fully understand the context of a job before you can innovate to solve it. This almost always means more focus on the social and emotional dimensions of the hiring decision.

Problems

Extreme variability in successful new products or attempts at innovation. 

I don't know why people purchase my products (or other products). 

I don't know why customers stop using my product. 

I don't know why customers switch to my competitors' products.

Avoid

  • Focusing only on current customers

  • Focusing only on functional product observations

  • Focusing only on the "big hire" (when a customer purchases a product) and neglecting the "little hire" (when they actually use the product)

  • Focusing only on the hire (what the customer bought), and not the fire (what they stopped using)

Tools

Customer Interviews are the most important tool when you think about the Jobs-to-be-Done framework. There are various ways to find existing customers to interview. (start with your email list and offer incentives)

Respondent.io is a great tool for finding interview candidates from outside your current customer base

Related Patterns

In Feature Requests we similarly reframe our thinking relative to our customers' behaviors and strive to dig deeper.

Further Reading


If you think someone else can benefit from learning about this pattern please share it and if you haven’t already don’t forget to subscribe to Long Pressed!

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