Jobs to be Done: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation

Jobs to be Done, by Stephen Wunker, Jessica Wattman and David Farber, is a recipe book to help organizations move innovation projects forward. While Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen’s research on uncovering new product and service ideas has primarily dealt with the question of the “what” and the “why”, this book focuses on the “how” - the execution of the innovation discovery process.

The concept of Jobs to be Done was first explored in the mainstream by Clayton Christensen in his 2003 book The Innovator’s Solution. His thesis is that breakthrough innovative products and services can be successfully created and sold not by looking at what people buy and use today, but rather by understanding and articulating the “job” that they need to get done.

As an Innovation Practitioner who has translated the “Jobs to be Done” (JTBD) concept over the past decade to create and build new ventures, I can appreciate the need for such a book. It essentially describes a consistent, repeatable step-by-step process. The authors’ view is that “to create innovation, it’s necessary to focus as much on the approach taken as on the ideas themselves”. In fact, they argue that getting the “how” of innovation will in large part determine the quality of the “what”.

The “how” of innovation will in large part determine the quality of the “what”.

The book is divided into two parts, which the authors call their “Jobs Road map”:

I. understanding the JTBD

Part I is particularly helpful for those who are not familiar with the JTBD concept, or for those who wish to have a quick refresher on the concept. It takes you through what a job is (“what a customer has to get done”), and what it isn’t (a feature, an attribution, an articulation of need). It gives you a process for discovering and prioritizing the jobs, and it helps you define success from the customer’s perspective. It also helps you consider the competitive environment and the implications of the potential business model.

II. using the JTBD to build great ideas

Part II helps you translate the articulated JTBD into solutions that can win. It recommends a series of steps to generate meaningful ideas, to evaluate them, and to test and learn from them. Much of what is written may seem familiar and resonate with those who have run productive brainstorming sessions, or those who have applied Lean Product Development practices. The key is to recognize that you should employ all the the techniques together to maximize the chance of success. When researching, talk not only to existing customers, but also competitors’ customers, as well as “non-consumers”. When brainstorming, don’t give a voluminous pre-read and then ask participants to shout out ideas one by one. When playing devil’s advocate, don’t just use your own staff, who may have their internal biases. These intuitively make sense, but many organizations still fall into these traps. The book gives tips on how to avoid these traps with helpful anecdotes and short case studies.

Jobs to be Done is a quick read, and the book ultimately serves as a “best practices” reference manual. The authors draw upon three useful sources of knowledge – (1) their own expertise and thought leadership, (2) the research and experience of others such as Christensen, P&G’s A.G. Lafley, and even management guru Peter Drucker, and finally (3) first-hand experience from their innovation consulting engagements with clients.

By Sunand Menon

About the author

Sunand Menon is founder of New Media Insight, LLC and provides innovation advisory, venture incubation and growth strategy services. He has started up and run several new ventures, and helped organizations create disruptive data, analytics and knowledge businesses. He has written for publications such as the Harvard Business Review and Fast Company, and has been quoted in publications such as the Financial Times. Follow him on LinkedIn at on Twitter at @MenonSunand