A brief summary of Job To Be Done, with 3 takeaways for product managers

Edited excerpt from What people really want — Focus on the job, not the customer by Nikkel Blaase:

People don’t want to buy products. They want to hire products to get a job done. Or as Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt puts it: “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” People do things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve — such as overcoming a boring commute, recovering from a stressful day or hanging framed photos on the wall. When people struggle they look out for solutions to achieve progress in their lives.

The Job-To-Be-Done framework has become popular in product design because it uncovers what causes people to hire products or services. Rather than understanding people by their demographic or socio-economic attributes, such as income or level of education, the framework focuses on satisfying needs by understanding the jobs people want to get done. Uncovering these jobs makes it easier to build the right solutions.

Takeaways:
1. Focus on understanding the job people want to get done and find out how the product fits into people’s lives.
2. Sell the product’s outcome, not the product itself: Beautiful, cut grass — not lawnmower or GM seeds.
3. Don’t care about direct competitors. Think about alternatives for achieving the same job and do the job better than any other solution out there.

Notes:
(1) In my experience, product managers may think they have successfully adopted the Job To Be Done framework simply by describing their project as a Job To Be Done. But unless you devote meaningful time and effort to investigating the Job To Be Done, for example by creating a Job Outline and conducting switch interviews, you’re kidding yourself. In Nikkel’s words, “Focus on understanding the job people want to get done and find out how the product fits into people’s lives”.
(2) For another description of Job To Be Done, see Build your product to explicitly address a “Job To Be Done”.
(3) Re. “Sell the product’s outcome, not the product itself” – cf. Steve Jobs’ approach to marketing.
(4) Re. “Don’t care about direct competitors” – cf. Your biggest competitor may not be who you think it is.
(5) For more, see the section on Job To Be Done in Best practices for startups — a list by topic.

9 thoughts on “A brief summary of Job To Be Done, with 3 takeaways for product managers

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