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Jobs-to-be-done: The new concept shaping product development and innovation

Sameer Naik

Jobs-to-be-done: Every company tries making adjustments over and over again to see growth and improvement: conducting surveys, studying the customer, detailed analysis and so on, but sometimes these adjustments do not yield desirable results. But what possibly goes wrong?

What is Jobs-to-be-done

Companies generally focus primarily on two aspects-obtaining generic customer data and categorizing them into groups with similar behaviour and needs, and highlighting only the product features. For instance, group A prefers the car in black to group B. This might sound reasonably correct, but have some flaws. The demographic and psychographic data don’t have a direct correlation with what people actually seek to achieve while purchasing a specific product. This situation is best explained by the concept of “Jobs-to-be-done”.

Understanding purchase decisions

At its core, jobs-to-be-done is a framework that unfolds the reasons why the customer has “hired” or bought the product/service. The word jobs imply the tasks that we aspire to fulfil with the product we purchase. These tasks can be as simple as listening to music while travelling, or as complex as calculating and managing taxes. If the product fulfils the task satisfactorily and smoothly, we tend to repurchase/reuse the product. Jobs-to-be-done theory transforms our understanding of product development. It shifts more towards revealing the customer’s true desires and needs.

What motivates the decisions

For instance, while purchasing a pizza, the customer doesn’t want to buy because of the perfectly kneaded dough or the delicate cheese or the exotic toppings, but they ultimately may want to celebrate a kid’s birthday party or celebrate their promotion or even binge-eat after a stressful week. There may be numerous reasons “why” the person hired the product. If the company is successful in deciphering these needs, the product is a success.

Categorically, these needs may be functional, emotional, and social. The functional aspect of a “job” is best represented by the question: “What task does my customer wish to fulfil by hiring my product?”. These are the practical issues the customer is facing. This aspect is the most important and obvious one. The second aspect, the emotional need, relates to how the customer wants to feel while executing the job. For instance, the customer “hires” a digital meditation app to feel less anxious while commuting late to work. The social aspect, on the other hand, is how the customer wants to be perceived by others while executing the job; maybe the customer wants to look cool or maybe technologically sound to their friends and family while purchasing a Tesla.

Logical approach

The jobs-to-be-done framework is a logical approach to better align customer needs with the company’s strategy of product development. Usually, the customer is unaware of the true needs for which they are hiring the product. Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, explained how by asking the potential customers what improvement they want, they’ll say “faster” horses. Upon digging a little deeper, we can see that the customer speaks in terms of their proposed solution for the problems they’re facing. This doesn’t correspond to the actual solution that has to be created. For this, big data can be really helpful to extract the right information.

Jobs-to-be-done is random

The jobs-to-be-done approach is not random or impromptu. For the process to be successful and for the final product or service to satisfy the demands of the consumer, it is crucial to use a methodical and disciplined approach. All of these start with extensive customer interviews and interactions to gather useful data. Careful analysis of this data reveals deeper insights into customers’ goals. This approach is purely a collaborative effort where every team member brainstorms ideas to develop solutions that create value for the customer as well as drive the company’s growth.

Jobs-to-be-done is a fairly new concept, resetting the traditional outlook on product development and innovation. By focusing on customers’ struggles with getting the job done and developing efficient solutions, a company can become an unerring prediction model-making its innovations more predictable and profitable.

The author is based in Toronto, Canada, and is a technology solution partner for the University of Toronto. 

(Views expressed above, solely belong to the author)

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