Jobs to be Done. Why is it so important?

There is quite an interesting topic I want to talk about today. Last week, I completed a module in Harvard Business School strategy course about ‘Jobs to Be Done’ approach taught by professor Clayton M. Christensen and would like to share some insights with you.

The term ‘Jobs to be Done’ has already become a buzzword in User Experience and Business strategy world. Companies spend billions of dollars trying to develop products and services that lead to success. The statistics are not clear but around 75 - 85% of new products each year fail financially because they don’t target jobs that people are trying to get done.


Because companies confuse Correlation (What is related to an outcome) with Causality (What causes What and Why). Correlation doesn’t tell you anything specifically what individual customer will buy and won’t buy.

Asking people directly what they want is also a bad idea. Customers are notoriously bad at describing what they want.

A Job to Be Done is a problem or an opportunity that somebody is trying to solve. What it does, it allows you to reach out and grab the whole causal mechanism that causes customers to buy your product. If we understand the job the customer is trying to do, we can create a product that nails this job perfectly, so the probability that your innovation will be successful is improved in dramatic ways.

In reality, customers don't really buy products: They "hire" them to get a "job" done.

Traditionally, in marketing, we used to describe mainly ‘Who we are targeting?’ and ‘What these people want?’ However, trying to ask what jobs customers are trying to get done can open new possibilities for your product or service.

In the past, customer profiles were based on social demographics. Maybe, if we focus on jobs, we will find different segments (Jobs to Be Done segmentation). Practice shows, that very diverse types of customers (with different demographics) have similar jobs.

Now, let’s talk about different types of Jobs to Be Done. There are three of them:

  1. Functional (They are tangible and measurable jobs that your customers are trying to do each day)

  2. Emotional. Very important!  (How your customers want to feel? What emotional needs are your customers trying to satisfy? What jobs, if completed, would give the user a sense of self-satisfaction?)

  3. Social (How you want to be perceived by others? )

Most strategy and UX practitioners only focus on Functional jobs (on ‘What?’) and that’s a mistake #1. Emotional aspect drives 95% of our decisions. Satisfaction is what customers pay you/hire your product or service to do.

No matter what you do, your 'cool' new product will not succeed if you are not addressing the job that your customers are trying to solve. The result is the product nobody wants.

You have to spend time exploring your customers' needs and developing empathy first.

Resist the temptation to jump to solutions. Too many companies do it from day one. You can fine-tune your business model, technology or product features later. Start with customers first and work backward.

Jeff Bezos put it well:

“There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.”

Here are some examples of questions that may be helpful. These questions are meant to help open the conversation, so you will have to continue to dig deeper by asking other questions.

  1. Do you remember the first time you thought about buying a (product)?

  2. Tell me about the first time you had a thought: ‘I need to find a new solution.”

  3. What problem or dilemma were you trying to solve when you bought the (product)?

  4. Tell me about the old _____(mattress, cell phone, etc…). Why didn’t you buy the same thing again?

  5. When you bought this (product), what other options did you consider?

These questions are directly from “Jobs-to-be-Done The Handbook” by Chris Spiek and Bob Moesta.

Also, strive to find answers to these critical questions:

  1. What 'job' does the customer hire your product to do?

  2. How big is the market, and is it growing?

  3. Who is competing to help the customer do this "job"?


The jobs to be done approach focuses on what people are trying to get done, not, just who they are and what they want. Because consumers can’t tell you what they want. It's impossible.

  • “If you understand the job that your customers are trying to do, then you will know how to improve your product.” - Clayton Christensen, Harvard & Innosight

  • Don’t underestimate the power of asking ‘Why’ multiple times. This technique was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda. It explores the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem.

  • Establish a rapport with your customer first. It will put a conversation's tone at ease, and your interviewee is more likely to share more information with you this way.

  • Focus not only on functional jobs (tasks that your customer wants to perform) but on social (How she wants to be perceived by others) and emotional (What jobs if completed would give the customer a sense of self-satisfaction) jobs too.

  • The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it sells him. Nobody pays for a product. What is paid for is satisfaction. Focus on emotional aspect during your interview too.

  • Segmenting customers based on their social demographics might be a good thing, but if we can focus on their Jobs to Be Done, we might discover new customer segments.

What about you? How does this apply to you? Are you using Jobs to Be Done approach in your organization?

Drop your opinion in the comments below 👇🏻. Thank you!

📖 Further reading

  • Jobs to Be Done approach by Strategyn. Winning solutions help customers get a job done better and/or more cheaply (Link)

  • Clayton Christensen: The Theory of Jobs To Be Done (Link)

  • The Jobs-to-be-Done Handbook by by Chris Spiek and Bob Moesta (Link)

  • Personas vs. Jobs-to-Be-Done by NNg (Link)

  • Measure Customer Progress Using JTBD + Outcome-Driven Innovation by Tony Ulwick (Link)


Alex Gilev is a UX Strategy consultant with experience leading a variety of complex projects in B2C, and B2B organizations.