JTBD: The Framework for Innovation

UI, UX, A/B, NPS, MVP, CX, USP, ICB…JTBD. Throughout my experiences in product development, I’ve learned many acronyms and the meanings behind them. The last acronym in particular represents a concept that I rely on often and is fundamental to any good product development. If you don’t know about it already, keep reading.

JTBD stands for “Jobs-to-be-Done”. This framework and mindset was first articulated by Clayton Christensen, the late author of The Innovator’s Dilemma. The idea is that to build better products and a strong business, you need to understand what motivates people to act. In order to underwhat what motivates them to act, you must first understand the underlying needs they’re trying to get done — hence, jobs-to-be-done (JTBD). I first encountered this concept back in 2014 when my friend working at Innosight introduced it to me. Even then I thought it was brilliant as I was working in product development and innovation for one of Canada’s leading telecommunication companies. Recently I was reintroduced to this concept at Square, where JTBD permeates the entire organization.

In order to create JTBD, there are two key inputs: identifying the customer and the type of job.

  1. Identify your customer.

Before you can define the customer’s needs, you need to identify who they are. In most B2C cases it’s straight-forward because the consumer plays all roles — buyer and user. In certain scenarios the buyer is different from the user (e.g. toddler toy) but generally speaking it’s a pretty simple exercise. Comparatively, B2B is more complex whereby you have many decision-makers and users. This is meaningful to note because each stakeholder has a different set of customer needs. The most basic breakdown is to look at it from three customer perspectives:

  • The buyer — person making the financial purchase decision (e.g. Procurement Team)
  • The support team — people servicing the product in the case it needs to be repaired, upgraded, etc (e.g. IT/Ops Team)
  • The job executor — person using the product to get the core functional job done

2. Types of jobs they are getting done.

The customer is trying to get three distinct types of jobs done.

  • Functional — this is the customer’s practical and objective requirement
  • Emotional — this describes the way your customer wants to feel when using the solution
  • Social — this is how the customer wants to be perceived by others when using the solution

Let’s look at an example and apply this framework to designing a phone. An important functional JTBD is to be able to easily make phone calls and browse the internet. A related emotional JTBD could be to make calls and browse the internet in a way that feels like you have control. A social JTBD might be others think you look tech-savvy and a trendsetter. You can imagine in the case of B2B products or integrated software and hardware products, the number of jobs is significantly more complex to identify and categorize.

The Jobs-to-be-Done framework is a structured guide for any product team to navigate through all the customer data and “cool ideas”. It helps product teams get to the core of what customers are looking for, unmet needs, and what they should be building. JTBD can be applied to product development, UX design, and marketing to achieve creativity and true innovation because you’re not bound by preconceived notions or constraints.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’d highly recommend this blog post from the UX Collective and the HBR Podcast with Clayton Christensen himself. There’s also a transcript in case you prefer reading the interview.

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