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Core Jobs Are Stable and Provide a Focal Point for Innovation

A central concept of jobs-to-be-done (J2BD) innovation theory is that “core” jobs are stable overtime. These are jobs that are both important and essential for people to conduct their daily life’s and achieve important goals.

When we identify people’s and organization’s core jobs, we discover these jobs are stable overtime, they don’t fundamentally change that much.  What changes is “how” to get the job done often enabled by technology.

Products are point-in-time solutions to getting jobs done

With this perspective, it becomes clear that  products are point-in-time solutions that enable  customers to get jobs done. For example, people need to travel for various reasons, but the fundamental “job” is to physically go from point A  to point B.

7-13-foot travel

In the very beginning , people had only one or two options: They could either walk from point A to point B, or be carried by someone else.

Along came the domesticated horse and the wheel enabling a new and better way to travel

further, faster and easier using horse and carriage. And for some people, boats enabled an alternative new way of getting travel done better. In some circumstances, boats and horse drawn carriages competed for the same customers who had the important job to travel from point A to point B.

With the wheel and the domesticated horse came more jobs to be done – creating wagons, carriages, saddles, as well as livery stables, barns, etc.  An ecosystem of industries evolved over time to address this fundamental job of travel. Same goes for boats and ships.

Then along came the steam engine creating a new possibility for passenger transportation in the form of railroads and steam powered ships. Resulting in a new ecosystem and new jobs-to-be-done to support the core job of travel.

 Continuing along the revolution of powered engines, along game the internal combustion engine which resulted in the creation of horseless carriages (a.k.a. the automobile),  and more efficient trains and water craft.

All still addressing the fundamental job to be done of passenger travel (and of course cargo – a related job but not the same).

Next major breakthrough in technology: airplanes as a viable form of  passenger travel, further enabled by the evolution of the combustion engine. And latter further transformed by the invention of the jet engine.

What’s next in passenger travel?  Rocket ships for space travel perhaps?  More likely electric and/or green technology powered vehicles?  Or will virtual reality replace travel? Perhaps for when travel is used to accomplish the job of meeting face-to-face, but probably not for basic job of travel which I predict will continue to exist well in the future.

Circumstances and constraints affect how jobs get done

This brings up an important concept in jobs-to-be-done theory. People execute jobs (the job executor) under specific circumstances and constraints. Circumstances and constraints are important parameters that marketers and developers need to understand before defining a solution to help a job executor get important jobs done better.

When we factor in circumstances and constraints, we improve our chances of creating a product and service that address “real” jobs that are currently underserved. For example, we won’t take a jumbo jet to go from our house down to our local grocery store (circumstance doesn’t make air travel feasible – at least not with a jumbo jet!).  Nor would we take our car to travel from San Francisco to Tokyo (circumstance and constraint of traveling across the Pacific ocean).

We will explore in greater detail how circumstances and constraints factor into jobs-to-be-done innovation theory in future articles.

The goal of innovation is to help customers get their jobs done better

From our example, we can see that while technology and social adoption changed the way how people travel, it didn’t change the core job of why people travel – to go from point A to point B. Instead what happened is technology and innovation enabled people to get the core job of travel done better.

Technology and innovation also opened up new possibilities of travel, both time and space, that otherwise would never been possible. And each new form of travel in turn created a whole new business ecosystems that supported the various industries that arose from a simple concept:

“Helping customers get their important jobs done better through innovation and new products”

Had innovators and developers focused on improving the horse and horse carriages, then perhaps the automobile would never have been invented. But luckily for us, innovators like Henry Ford knew better, innovation wasn’t about making horses faster, but rather, making the important job of moving people from point A to point B more effective, while addressing important desired outcomes that weren’t being satisfied by horse and buggy,  including traveling further in less time,  with more comfort. While creating more travel flexibility and a sense of independence (emotional job) than what an iron horse could provide.

Long and short of  jobs-to-be-done innovation theory

Focus on the core jobs people are trying to get done, the outcomes they are trying to achieve by executing their jobs, and the constraints and circumstances that prevent them from getting 100% satisfaction in achieving their desired outcomes.  By focusing on core jobs,  you will discovered a focal point for long-term innovation that will lead to a steady stream of successful new products.

Our job is to help people get their jobs done better through innovation.


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