The theory of “Jobs To Be Done” comes from Clay Christensen. He wrote in Harvard Business Review:
After decades of watching great companies fail, we’ve come to the conclusion that the focus on correlation—and on knowing more and more about customers—is taking firms in the wrong direction. What they really need to home in on is the progress that the customer is trying to make in a given circumstance—what the customer hopes to accomplish. This is what we’ve come to call the job to be done.
We all have many jobs to be done in our lives. Some are little (pass the time while waiting in line); some are big (find a more fulfilling career). Some surface unpredictably (dress for an out-of-town business meeting after the airline lost my suitcase); some regularly (pack a healthful lunch for my daughter to take to school). When we buy a product, we essentially “hire” it to help us do a job. If it does the job well, the next time we’re confronted with the same job, we tend to hire that product again. And if it does a crummy job, we “fire” it and look for an alternative. (We’re using the word “product” here as shorthand for any solution that companies can sell; of course, the full set of “candidates” we consider hiring can often go well beyond just offerings from companies.)
… [D]isruption theory doesn’t tell you how to create products and services that customers want to buy. Jobs-to-be-done theory does. It transforms our understanding of customer choice in a way that no amount of data ever could, because it gets at the causal driver behind a purchase.
Alan Klement defines it thus: “A Job to be Done is the process a consumer goes through whenever she aims to change her existing life-situation into a preferred one, but cannot because there are constraints that stop her.” He writes about the thinking behind JTBD:
Ten thousand years ago, we were hunter gatherers and used our feet to roam the earth. Today, we have fast food restaurants and autonomous cars. Why did we change? Because we have an intrinsic desire to evolve ourselves. We do this by remaking and adapting to the world around us.
The desire to evolve is in our DNA. It’s what makes us human. Moreover, we do this evolution with purpose. We purposefully use the arts to evolve ourselves emotionally; the sciences to evolve ourselves intellectually; and engineering to evolve how we interact with the world. Purposeful evolution is why we are different from animals:
- A bear trying to catch food by the river may think, I wish fishing could be made better, faster, or easier.
- But only a human will think, Fishing is no good. If I could transform that lagoon over there into a place where I can breed fish, then I’d never have to go fishing again.
The bear thinks only about what is. Today, it may come up with a better, faster, or easier way to fish. But tomorrow, it is still a bear that fishes. The human, on the other hand, thinks about what ought to be. Today, she fishes, but tomorrow that can change. If she could figure out a way to no longer fish, then she can focus on improving herself in other ways — like building a hut so she could move out of that dank cave.
The bear does not think about evolving itself and its world. It never has a Job to be Done. The human, on the other hand, does think about evolving herself. And every time she begins the process of evolving herself, she has a Job to be Done.
JTBD is an idea that is central to the brand-customer relationship and the coming martech era. Marketers have focused too much on either acquiring new customers or pushing them to completing the transaction. They need to look beyond this world of adtech and Martech 1.0.