Jobs to Be Done and New Product Blueprinting
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The phrases “customer job” and “jobs-to-be-done” are ubiquitous within the language of innovation and new product development for practitioners, strategists and executives. This concept and its acronym “JTBD” – can generate two errors in thinking. First, it sounds complex – perhaps something best left to academics or high-priced consultants. Second, it does not apply to us – or our business. Both are incorrect. Like most powerful ideas, it is a simple concept with broad application.
So, what is it then?
A customer job is a statement, beginning with a verb, of what a customer wants to accomplish. @aim_institute This could be a goal, an objective, or a problem to be solved. Book a flight. Prepare a meal. Learn a new language. Reduce body weight. Job statements such as these are precise versions of customer need statements. In their 1991 article “Voice of the Customer”, Griffin and Hauser defined a customer need as “a description, in the customer’s own words, of the benefit that he, she or they want fulfilled by the product or service.” This idea of a “customer job statement” builds upon this idea in that it gives structure to the vague concept of a benefit.
Why is it important?
In all innovation discussions – we should consider the word “product” broadly – meaning that it could be a tangible product but it could also be a service, a business model – or any solution whatsoever. As such, it is common that we define our business by the products we sell. We’re in the adhesives business. We’re in the construction equipment business. We’re in the software business, etc. Further, we’re likely to have product experts, technical experts, software experts and the like. All of this “expertise” separates us from our customers and what they really care about…getting a job done. When we consider the job that a customer purchases our product for, then and only then – do we see the market from our customer’s perspective.
How is it useful?
There are many benefits – but we will focus on just four specific to New Product Blueprinting:
1. JTBD provides a longer time horizon than a product focus.
Whereas products come and go – technologies come and go – jobs are stable over time. We use new product technologies such as Facebook and LinkedIn– but the jobs they address are not new in the least. Facebook helps us to keep in touch with friends, document memories, and even entertain ourselves. LinkedIn can help us to expand our professional connections, market our services, or even get a job. We were doing these things before we had Facebook or LinkedIn. It’s just that these new solutions do them better – and so we spend more time on Facebook than writing letters – and we spend more time on LinkedIn than at Rotary Club meetings. The new products outperform the old in addressing the same jobs.
2. JTBD guides us as we execute New Product Blueprinting’s Step 1: Market Research
The “job” of Step 1 is to select a market to study. Consider that within B2B, we often have products that perform many jobs. Imagine that your company produces nitrogen. In a traditional scenario, you could define your segments along verticals such as agricultural, industrial, medical and energy. As an alternative, you could use a JTBD approach – and define job-segments as such:
- Provide nutrition to plants
- Inflate automobile tires
- Provide oxygen therapy
3. JTBD naturally integrates with Blueprinting.
Let’s presume that you’ve scoped your project around the job, “Provide oxygen therapy.” You have taken a step back from your product, nitrogen, and instead are focused on the job. Now consider the three core phases of the Blueprinting Discovery Interview: Problems, Ideal State, and Triggered Ideas. For the Problems section, your interview questions would be variations on “What problems do you have when providing oxygen therapy?” For Ideal State, your questions would be variations on “What would oxygen therapy look like in your ideal world?” Finally, for Triggered Ideas, you can break down the process of provide oxygen therapy – and likewise probe about the issues that arise with each step of the process such as:
- Assess patient overall health
- Measure current blood oxygen level
- Verify that the Oxygen-Nitrogen mix is correct
Note that these steps are good job statements themselves. They begin with a verb, are clear, and are solution-independent. Within the Triggered Ideas section, you could essentially repeat the “Problems” and “Ideal State” gambits by asking, “What problems do you have when assessing the patient’s overall health?” soon to be followed by variations on “What would your ideal product be to measure the current blood oxygen level?”
4. JTBD helps us to separate the core, focal job from consumption chain jobs.
Consumption chain jobs are the jobs we execute as we “consume” a product. For example: purchase, install, receive, learn to use, use, dispose, upgrade, etc. In this case, we have a solution in mind, such as an oxygen therapy machine – and we can compose consumption job statements such as:
- Learn to use an oxygen therapy machine
- Install an oxygen therapy machine
- Change the tank from an oxygen therapy machine
JTBD thinking is consistent with New Product Blueprinting and is essential to an effective innovation strategy.@aim_institute Though a simple concept, JTBD somehow eludes mastery – and it can be worthwhile to read the works of JTBD thought leaders. My favorite, in alphabetical order, are Scott Anthony, Lance Bettencourt, Clayton Christensen, and Anthony Ulwick. Whether you dip your toes into this pool or dive deep – better understanding of Jobs to Be Done thinking will improve your ability to see the world the way your customer does – ensuring that your New Product Blueprinting projects will be fun, enlightening and ultimately – profitable.
Originally published in Take AIM newsletter, December 2016.