Jobs to be Done has been growing in appeal in recent times. It is a functional and rigorous approach to generating innovation opportunities that offer an alternative to the classic ‘ideation’ style that that has been so popular in the past decade.

The promise of JTBD

JTBD uses specialist techniques to identify unmet needs people have when carrying out seemingly straightforward tasks. When carried out carefully, JTBD will identify a wide range of unmet needs in situations that people are highly dissatisfied with, which indicate promising innovation opportunities.
The benefits of JTBD are primarily:
  • Innovation in mature categories is achievable
  • A prioritisation of unfulfilled needs, providing a roadmap for innovation
  • The solutions for innovation easily present themselves (and they do!)
I’ve used JTBD with an online food services client over a 4-month period to identify new features for an app. The project was highly productive and I have continued to work with the client on separate projects using the same technique.

My approach to JTBD

There are a handful of agencies that specialise in the approach. Strategyn has, in my view, the best model and I used a pared-down approach for this particular project.
Stage 1. We determined the ‘Overall Job’ that needed to be carried out. This is the overarching job for which the app, tool, service or product is employed to do. For our project, an app was to be employed for a new usage occasion, so we took care to define the new usage occasion in detail to ensure the territory for research was correct.
Stage 2. I carried out 32 qualitative depth interviews. The sample was very large as the usage occasion was of relevance to everyone in the UK, irrespective of age, gender, demographics etc.. The structure of the interviews was as follows:
  • We used the last time the user carried out the task to ensure memory was vivid
  • We broke it down into discrete stages with the user
  • We explored decision making within each stage
  • We created a job map (similar to a journey map)
  • We captured specific pain points
  • We then determined what a ‘successful outcome’ would look like for each sub-job
It’s important to consider the detail that we went into. Across the interviews, we captured over 75 decisions that needed to be made within the ‘Overall Job’ that needed to be done.
The interviewing is extremely difficult because the moderator needs to use active listening throughout the interview, reflecting the decision making, checking specific needs and determining specific outcomes. I always had an additional moderator to help inject and test specific outcomes that the moderator had not identified.
Stage 3. After the qualitative stage, an important stage of analysis begins.  Key tasks are to:
  • Develop a job map. This should capture the stages the user has to move through to complete the job successfully. It may comprise of a number of stages, typically 8
  • Write the ‘outcome statements’. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the process – there is a requirement to ensure each statement is written in the same format to avoid bias in the next stage of research.
For many, stopping the process here is an option, as it will be apparent from the qualitative interviews where the most pain lies and therefore where the opportunities for innovation are.
However, in this project, there were a great many pain points and so we needed to be clear about which were more apparent to people in the UK population.
Stage 4. To determine a robust hierarchy of needs (outcomes) that are most attractive to develop, quantitative research and analysis are required. The approach was as follows:
  • Screen people for relevance – they need to be carrying out the overall job
  • Develop profiling / attitudinal questions so you can determine who users are and, if required, segment them
  • Ask customers to score the ‘outcome statements’ in two ways:  How satisfied they are with the current situation as described in the outcome statement, and how important it is to improve the situation

Stage 5. Pull the research findings together with quantitative analysis. A scoring system is used to determine when an outcome statement is sufficiently dissatisfying / important enough to improve, to make it a strong contender for innovation.

Stage 6. Finally, use the research results to identify innovation opportunities. This was surprisingly easy and powerful. Most innovators know that the innovation process is usually fraught with difficulty and so it was refreshing to feel confident that the ideas we developed were genuinely required by users:
  • We used the job map to pin outcome statements that were unfulfilled
  • These outcomes were granular and in isolation were not inspiring, but when grouped into specific areas the ideas for new features were easily spotted
  • For each of the outcomes, we quickly identified a range of features that would solve the pain users were experiencing
  • The ideas were used to create a hierarchy of features


In simple terms, it works! It confidently predicts core unmet needs and intuitively suggests innovation ideas. The client used the ideas to generate a prototype that went into private beta.
It is a difficult technique to master, primarily in two areas; 1, the interview moderation, which stretches the most experienced moderator to think quickly and clearly about customer needs, and 2, the generation of outcome statements that are not biased, leading or irrelevant.
If you would like to learn more, please drop me a line via the contact page and I’d be happy to discuss the technique and how it could be applied to your business.
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