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Introduction to jobs to be done

jobs to be done

Jobs to be done (JTBD) is a framework that focuses on understanding the underlying motivations and desired outcomes that drive customer purchase decisions. 

Rather than looking at demographics or attributes of consumers, JTBD looks at the “job” that customers are trying to get done. A job is the fundamental problem a person is trying to resolve in a given situation.

The JTBD approach is useful for conversion optimization because it provides insights into the reasons why customers select certain products and services. 

By understanding the job the customer is trying to accomplish, you can design and market your offering to better meet their needs. This results in products and services that more closely match what the customer is seeking, leading to higher conversion rates and customer satisfaction. 

Overall, JTBD offers a powerful lens for understanding customer motivations and making conversion optimization decisions based on those motivations.

Origins and History

The Jobs-to-be-done framework has its origins in research done by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen in the early 2000s. 

Christensen introduced the concept through his well-known milkshake case study. By observing customers and asking probing questions, Christensen realized that many customers were “hiring” milkshakes in the morning to do the job of providing a filling breakfast that would get them through their long commutes. 

This key insight about the “job” milkshakes were being hired to do formed the foundation of the Jobs-to-be-done theory.

Christensen built upon the notion of “jobs” as the fundamental problems or needs customers are seeking to resolve or satisfy. 

Jobs-to-be-done views customers as seeking to make progress in their lives, rather than simply seeking products or services. Christensen articulated these ideas in influential books like The Innovator’s Dilemma and promoted Jobs-to-be-done in Harvard Business Review articles.

Since Christensen introduced it, Jobs-to-be-done has been further developed by other researchers and consultants. 

Tony Ulwick pioneered the “outcomes-driven” innovation approach, which focuses directly on the jobs that customers want to get done. Ulwick’s book What Customers Want outlines his process for quantifying customer-desired outcomes. 

This provides a measurement framework for innovation based on Jobs-to-be-done.

Bob Moesta is another leading thinker who has greatly expanded on Jobs-to-be-done theory through research and consulting. He emphasizes ethnographic interviews to uncover customers’ unmet needs, desired outcomes, and jobs to be done. 

Moesta led the development of the Regress, Progress, and Motivations framework for segmenting customers based on their job-related goals. His work focuses on practical Jobs-to-be-done applications.

Core Concepts Of Jobs-To-Be-Done


A job is the fundamental goal or task a customer is trying to achieve or the problem they are seeking to solve. 

Jobs have important functional dimensions like saving time, increasing efficiency, making a process easier, reducing costs, or improving convenience. 

There are also emotional dimensions like providing confidence, security, relief, excitement, acceptance, or a sense of belonging. Jobs are an ongoing process customers are trying to make progress on over time. 

Jobs can be small everyday tasks or large aspirational life goals. For example, in the well-known milkshake case study, the core job customers were hiring milkshakes to do was to entertain them and serve as a filling, interesting breakfast during their boring morning commute. 

The milkshake helped them make functional and emotional progress on this job each day.


Pains refer to the frustrations, unmet needs, negative experiences, and challenges customers experience with current solutions for getting a job done. 

Pains can be functional, such as a solution taking too long, being too expensive, requiring too much effort, not being reliable, lacking key features, or being inconvenient to use. 

There are also emotional pains like finding a solution confusing, overwhelming, risky, boring, frustrating or causing stress and anxiety. 

Pains are obstacles that slow or prevent progress on the job. By having in-depth conversations and gathering insights into customer pains through interviews, surveys, and research, you can uncover the biggest opportunities to provide value through innovation. 

Understanding the pains that create struggles for customers sheds light on where an improved solution is needed most.


Gains are the desired positive outcomes, benefits, and experiences customers seek from an ideal solution to make satisfying progress on their job. 

Gains map closely to the core job the customer is trying to accomplish, both functionally and emotionally. 

For milkshakes, key gains were satiety, thickness, fun flavours, being filling, and providing an enjoyable drinking experience – all directly aligned with the job of entertaining the customers’ commute. 

An innovative solution must deliver the exact gains that matter most in enabling functional and emotional progress for the customer’s specific job. 

Understanding which gains translate to progress allows for proper positioning and messaging that resonates.


Motions refer to all the steps customers take to select, purchase, onboard with, use, get help with, and ultimately get a job done with a product or service. 

This includes becoming aware of options, researching solutions, comparing choices, deciding to purchase, onboarding/implementation, using the core features, integrating the solution into their lives, getting help/troubleshooting if needed, maintenance, and eventually discontinuing use. 

Analyzing all the motions involved in customers hiring and firing solutions provides insights into barriers, pain points, and opportunities to improve. The key is making each motion easy, clear, and painless so customers can make steady progress on their job.


Progress refers to how customers measure and assess whether they are accomplishing the job with a solution. 

Metrics for progress include time saved, costs reduced, number of steps required, speed, convenience, and the emotional state achieved. The key is understanding how customers define and evaluate their own progress on their job, from their point of view. 

This perception of progress then shapes product positioning, messaging, features, and ongoing innovation to deliver solutions purpose-built to enable the desired progress on jobs. Tracking progress metrics provides critical feedback.

Applying Jobs To Be Done

Interviewing Customers

Conducting effective job interviews is critical for uncovering deep insights about the functional and emotional dimensions of the job the customer is trying to accomplish. 

Well-structured in-depth interviews using open-ended questions and laddering techniques can reveal frustrations, anxieties, desired gains, workarounds, pain points, and all the steps customers take to get the job done currently. 

Skilled interviewers probe deeply into the dynamics of the customer’s job, listening closely for language cues. They use follow-up questions to uncover details about struggles customers encounter and areas where progress is hindered. 

The goal is to identify key pains that slow progress and gains that would accelerate it. 

Interviews provide qualitative data to map the customer’s worldview, environment, and true motivations. This raw data is synthesized to pinpoint opportunities for innovation that enable job progress.

Segmenting Markets

Markets can be segmented based on the different jobs customers in that market are trying to accomplish and the functional and emotional progress they seek to make. 

Jobs-based segmentation provides a more meaningful, precise view of motivations compared to traditional demographics, attributes, or characteristics. 

There will often be subgroups within a broader market with very different jobs they want to make progress on. Drilling down to identify the 1-3 key segments to target based on their desired job progress allows for positioning solutions to specifically enable that progress. 

Avoid a simplistic one-size-fits-all approach. Prioritize the jobs where your solution can provide the most impactful progress.

Developing Products and Services

Keep the core job the target customer is hiring your product/service to accomplish and the key gains sought firmly in focus throughout the entire development process.

 Continuously gather direct feedback from potential target customers on whether your solution delivers on enabling the functional and emotional progress they seek. 

Identify any points of friction, confusion, annoyance or misalignment that slow job progress and iterate rapidly based on this feedback. Refine and enhance features and messaging that map directly to customer needs for progress on their job. Let the job serve as the North Star guiding all development, not just features.


  • Craft messaging and positioning that focuses tightly on fulfilling the target customer’s job and delivering the specific gains they seek. 
  • Articulate how your offering enables desired job progress better than alternatives. 
  • Use a progress-focused narrative arc – show specifically how your product or service enables the before/after job progress customers care about, using vivid language describing struggles and desired outcomes. 
  • Visuals demonstrating job progress also resonate strongly. 
  • Keep messaging laser focused on enabling job progress, not touting general features. 
  • Continuously test with target customers to ensure messaging drives home job progress.

Benefits Of Jobs to be done

1. Builds deeper empathy and understanding of customers

The Jobs-to-be-done approach builds much deeper empathy and understanding of customers by going beyond surface-level insights to uncover their core functional and emotional motivations, anxieties, frustrations, and struggles. 

In-depth job interviews reveal the meaning and reasoning behind what customers say they want. 

Jobs-to-be-done provides a window into the deeper “why” that drives consumer behaviours, decisions, and workarounds when progress is hindered. 

This empathetic understanding of the full human context is essential for meaningful innovation. It guards against misguided solutions that fail to enable real progress.

2. Uncovers underserved customer needs

Jobs-to-be-done helps to uncover underserved customer needs and areas of pain by surfacing desired gains and outcomes that current solutions fail to adequately provide. 

The jobs lens reveals both functional and emotional obstacles that actively prevent or slow down progress customers seek to make. 

Jobs-to-be-done highlights key gaps, pain points, and progress barriers in the market where customer needs are underserved by existing solutions. 

This opens up white space opportunities for new offerings specifically designed and positioned around enabling the tangible progress that customers are struggling to achieve.

3. Provides clarity on the “job” a product is hired for

Jobs-to-be-done provides invaluable clarity on the core “job” that a product or service is hired by customers to accomplish. 

Having a precise understanding of the job the customer needs to get done and the associated functional/emotional progress they seek allows for proper alignment of all elements of the offering to deliver on that job. 

It prevents things from getting out of focus, guides decision-making, and eliminates feature bloat. 

Jobs-to-be-done answers the fundamental question – what job is our product being hired to do and is everything about our product aligned to that job?

4. Reveals new opportunities beyond current solutions

Jobs-to-be-done reveals valuable new opportunities for innovation that expand horizons far beyond small iterations on existing offerings. 

By thoroughly exploring in an unbiased way all the jobs customers are seeking to make progress on, innovation pathways open up beyond just competitor solutions. 

Jobs-to-be-done prevents getting trapped in a narrow view of the market and obscured by current offerings. Instead, it looks broadly at the full ecosystem of jobs requiring functional/emotional progress. This opens up adjacent spaces.

Criticisms and Limitations Of JTBD

Difficult to fully understand all jobs a customer hires for

It can be enormously challenging to fully understand the entire ecosystem of jobs a customer hires products and services for. 

Customers often have a complex web of functional and emotional jobs they are constantly seeking to make progress on. Even extensive interviewing and rigorous ethnographic research may fail to uncover every possible scenario, context, and nuance of when a job arises for a customer. 

Some niche, situational jobs that occur less frequently can easily be overlooked. Since jobs span a broad spectrum, it is difficult for any single job analysis to comprehensively map out every job and sub-job in detail. 

There are inherent limits to how much jobs research can reliably reveal.

Jobs are not static – they evolve over time

The jobs customers seek to make progress on are not static or stationary – they evolve dynamically over months and years as customers’ individual situations, needs, and contexts change. 

A job that is important for a customer today may diminish in priority or become obsolete over time, while new unmet jobs emerge. 

This requires ongoing jobs research through continual engagement with customers to keep understanding current as jobs evolve. 

Jobs-to-be-done cannot provide a single static snapshot in time. To keep understanding fresh, consistent jobs research is essential to spot new patterns.

Can over-prioritize functional jobs vs. emotional/social

Jobs-to-be-done analysis risks over-prioritizing functional, practical jobs focused on saving time, increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and convenience. 

It may underemphasize important emotional jobs related to confidence, relationships, belonging, identity, and social status. 

While functional jobs are easier to quantify and measure, emotional motivations are more subtle and must not be overlooked. Getting the full picture requires nuanced questioning to surface emotional and social dimensions during interviews. 

An effective jobs analysis requires balancing functional practicality with emotional fulfillment for a holistic understanding.

Jobs-to-Be-Done vs. Other Methodologies

Jobs-to-Be-Done vs Personas

Personas aim to create archetypal representations of key customer segments by synthesizing demographics, attributes, behaviours, and characteristics into a fictional but representative profile. 

However, personas may lack depth and specificity in motivating psychology. While useful for categorization, personas do not capture customers’ underlying drivers. 

Jobs-to-be-Done complements personas by adding critical layers focused directly on customer motivations, anxieties, unmet needs, and the tangible functional and emotional progress they are trying to achieve in their lives. 

The jobs lens surfaces the meaning and significance that personas miss. Well-developed personas combined with rich jobs insight create a multi-dimensional understanding of customers.

Jobs-to-Be-Done vs Surveys

Surveys gather self-reported data directly from customers by asking them questions about their wants, needs and preferences. 

However, surveys rely entirely on customers to accurately articulate their requests. This makes surveys reactive and biased by current solutions. 

Jobs-to-be-Done goes much deeper by digging into the underlying ‘why’ behind customer decisions by uncovering the meaning customers ascribe to products and services. 

Surveys often miss key latent, unmet jobs where no adequate solution yet exists. Jobs fill critical gaps by revealing unexpected struggles for progress that customers cannot explicitly articulate.

Jobs-to-Be-Done vs Focus Groups

Focus groups provide qualitative customer feedback by fostering discussion on incremental improvements and iterations of existing products. However, they center the conversation on known solutions rather than digging into unmet needs. 

Jobs-to-be-Done is better suited for discovering entirely new innovation opportunities as it takes a broad, unbiased view of the full ecosystem of jobs customers are trying to make progress on. 

The jobs lens opens up more breakthrough possibilities that focus groups anchored on current offerings may never uncover.

Frequently Asked Questions About Jobs-to-be-done

Question: What are some common jobs people hire products to do?

Answer: Common jobs include saving time, making progress on goals, reducing frustration, entertaining oneself, gaining confidence, and simplifying routine tasks. The key is identifying both functional and emotional jobs.

Question: How do you conduct effective Jobs-to-be-done interviews?

Answer: Effective JTBD interviews use open-ended questions to uncover circumstances, motivations, and thought processes behind jobs. Laddering techniques dig deeper into why a job matters. Avoid simple yes/no questions.

Question: Can Jobs-to-be-done apply to services as well as physical products?

Answer: Yes, JTBD can be applied to any offering, including software, apps, services, experiences, etc. The key is identifying the progress the customer seeks.

Question: What are the limitations of Jobs-to-be-done research?

Answer: Limitations include difficulty uncovering all jobs, jobs evolving over time, bias toward functional jobs, and reliance on customer self-reporting.

Question: What skills do you need to apply Jobs-to-be-done?

Answer: Skills needed include empathy, interviewing, synthesizing data, pattern recognition, analytics, and customer-centric thinking.

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