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People “Hire” Products To Get Important Jobs Done

People don’t buy products, they “hire” solutions to solve important problems. Think about the last time you bought a product, maybe new software or even an app from your favorite apps store. What were the factors that drove you to making the decision to buy the product?

Chances are you were actively looking for a product to solve a problem you were having. Or when the product presented itself to you (i.e. you found it somewhat serendipitously), it clarified a problem (or desire) you may not have been totally aware of, but motivated you to take action to hire it.

The concept of understanding “jobs-to-be-done” was articulated by Clay Christensen in his must read book “The Innovator’s Solution. Creating and Sustaining Successful Growth.” Here’s what Christensen says about “jobs-to-be-done:”

“When customers become aware of a job that they need to get done in their lives, they look around for a product or service that they can “hire” to get the job done.”

For example, I recently remodeled my bathroom. The first “job” on the list was to upgrade the bathroom floor. I wanted to hire a “floor” product that I could easily install by myself, be affordable and would look great when the “job” was completed.

Turns out there were lots of products I could hire to get the job done. Ranging from the most inexpensive linoleum (but that’s what I wanted to replace) to stone and ceramic title, which looked fantastic, but also looked too involved to install given my skill level, time, existing tools, and desire to take on that big of a job.

Through web research and visits to my local favorite home improvements stores, I hired a stone laminate product that looked great in the show room, appeared very simple to install, and priced at a point that made hiring the product a very simple and non-emotional purchase.

Though not hassle free, I am happy to say I am delighted with the results I achieved in executing my job. The floor looks great – but not perfect (my inner critic coming to the surface perhaps). In executing my job, I discovered there were many other sub jobs that needed to be done, requiring me to hire more tools (products) to execute these jobs. I love tools, so the need to hire more tools was a nice way to justify adding to my tool collection, or at least this is what I told my wife!

I share this story to help frame the jobs-to-be-done innovation framework using a real situation. In the spectrum of executing complicated  jobs, installing a floor is somewhere in the middle of trivial to heroic – but it will serve as a good example to explain the jobs-to-be-done innovation framework.

Jobs Definition:

Let’s begin by creating a definition of what a job is:

  1. A job is a task, objective or goal a person or organization is trying to accomplish or a problem they are trying to resolve. In my case the job I wanted to resolve was to improve the appearance of my bathroom by upgrading the floor.

  2. The “job” is important to them and they are dedicated to getting the job done. For my wife and me, it is important that our house looks great. It’s our castle and pride and joy. Upgrading the bathroom is just one “job” to be done in achieving our goal.

  3. Customers migrate to products that get the job done best – according to their definition of success (desired outcomes). The laminated stone floor fit my bill. The product looks great, relatively easy to install, affordable and easy to purchase. For the most part, it satisfied my desired outcomes in doing the job. We will talk more about desired outcomes in future articles.

Jobs-to-be-done have both functional and emotional aspects

A functional job describe the task that a  job executor wants to accomplish. In my case, upgrading and installing a new bathroom floor to improve the look and quality of my bathroom.

As we will see a future article, there is a higher level job (core functional job) I want done – that’s making improvements to my house to achieve my desired outcome of having a very lovely and comfortable home my wife and I will be proud of. Upgrading the floor is just one node in the overall home improvement job tree.

The functional part of the job are the steps a job executor takes to define, plan, prepare, execute and conclude a job. These steps are called the job map. A job map provides a visual depiction of the job deconstructed into discrete process steps, explain in exact detail what the job executor is trying to get done.

With a job map in place, job executor needs can be captured for each job step in the map. These details are the core elements we innovate around by understanding the desired outcomes a job executor seeks along each process step.

In my example, the functional job were all the steps I took from initially defining what my bathroom improvement project will entail, how I would get it done, what products I would hire and gather to get the job done, how I would do the job, the actual job execution, and finally concluding the job by cleaning up my job site and at last – completing the job and feeling great about the final outcome. Which brings us to the emotional dimensions of jobs-to-be-done.

Emotional jobs are related to feelings and perceptions, and as such they are subjective. There are two kinds of emotional jobs:

  1. Personal jobs describes how customers want to feel about themselves.

  2. Social jobs refers to customers want to be perceived by others.

For my flooring project, on a personal level I wanted to feel good about my abilities and skills to use my hands to create a beautiful floor.  Had the floor turned out looking bad, my emotional job would have been underserved and I would have been left feeling bad about myself. As it is now, when I sit on my thrown, I feel pretty darn good about myself – that I could create a great product with my own hands!

On a social level, I am very proud to show off my handy work to friends and visitors. I get tickled pink when they say to me “wow, you did that by yourself!”  They think of me as a very talented handyman and craftsman – important persona I like to project out to the world.

In summary

The core idea behind jobs-to-be-done innovation is to discover and understand  what “jobs” people are really trying to accomplish, what are the desired outcomes they are trying to achieve by doing the job, under what circumstances are they trying to execute the job, and what prevents them from achieving their desired outcomes with 100% satisfaction.

As marketers and product developers, the better we understand the problems people have upfront, and how people define success in their terms, the better our odds of creating winning new products and services. The jobs-to-be-done innovation framework provides both the structure and a common language we can use to discover and define what customers really want to achieve in executing jobs. This forms the knowledge foundation we can innovate around.

In upcoming articles we will continue to explore “jobs” as the fundamental unit of innovation, why jobs are stable over time, and  how to define and construct “job-statements.” We will also explore  how customers define success in their own words by understanding desired outcomes, the circumstances, and constraints that prevent them from achieving 100% satisfaction in executing their jobs along each step of the job map.

Until then, I hope your jobs are coming out as good as my remodel job!



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