A Beginner’s Guide to “Jobs to be Done”

Apr 19, 2021

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.” — Theodore Levitt


The basic premise of the “Jobs to be Done” framework is that people do not just buy products and services because of their features or other attributes. People hire products and services to get a job done. When customers have a job that they want to accomplish, they will look for the most convenient, effective, and least price-intensive solution to get it done.


Jobs vs. Product Attributes

“When managers define market segments along the lines for which data are available rather than the jobs that customers need to get done, it becomes impossible to predict whether a product idea will connect with an important customer job. Using these data to define market segments causes managers to aim innovation at phantom targets.”  Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor, Innovator’s Solution


Traditionally, market research focuses on characteristics of products and customer demographics to spot business opportunities. While these methods and this data can uncover important correlations between products and customers, they lack insights into why people choose those products. Evaluating the performance of a product in the past can be misleading if you’re trying to decide what to focus on in the future. When you uncover customers’ needs and discover which of those needs are most important and least satisfied, you can create solutions that are more likely to withstand the test of time.


The “Needs First” Approach

Many companies brainstorm ideas for products by using strategies such as creating derivatives of top-selling products, filling product portfolio gaps, and targeting unpursued price points. These approaches can be effective, but over time, a company can lose grasp of what customer needs are most important and least satisfied. A company can lose grasp of customers’ evolving unmet needs as economical, geographical, social, and technological forces affect and shape an industry. Not having a clear idea of what customer needs to pursue can provide an opportunity for competitors to capitalize on that market gap.


The “needs-first” approach involves first learning what the customers’ needs are, finding out which of those needs are unmet, and then creating solutions to meet those unmet needs. In other words, you first identify the customer needs that you should target before generating ideas, instead of blindly generating ideas without understanding what types of products and services would most adequately satisfy your customers’ needs.


Functional, Social, and Emotional Jobs

By uncovering the situational, emotional and social circumstances that play a role in your customer’s decision-making process, you will understand the trade-offs customers make when comparing your product to others. Doing this is crucial to identifying and understanding underserved needs and where opportunities for innovation and solutions exist.


Three Types of Jobs:

  1. Functional Jobs – the core tasks that customers want to get done
  2. Emotional Jobs – how customers want to feel or avoid feeling as a result of executing the core functional job
  3. Social Jobs – how customers want to be perceived by others

Jobs To Be Done - Functional, Emotional, and Social Jobs


Each of these three jobs can act as a function of differentiation in any industry. For example, if your industry is mainly focused on the functional aspects of the Jobs to be Done framework, then differentiate yourself with the emotional aspect. Give your product a unique look with a sleek, appealing design. Likewise, if your industry focuses on image and emotion, start to emphasize the functional aspects of your products.


Job Considerations Outside your Product Category

Most likely, customers consider products outside of your product category when considering what job to select.


For instance, if someone wants entertainment, they have options that span many product and service categories:

  • Watch a newly-released movie on Amazon.com that fits their interests
  • Look at a show on a streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu
  • Attend a public event in their town
  • Play a video game
  • Watch their favorite YouTube channel
  • Listen to a new album
  • Attend a concert


If someone wants to exercise to lose weight, they also have options that span many product and service categories:

  • Go to a gym and use a stationary bike
  • Jog around a lake trail
  • Use a jump rope at home
  • Buy a treadmill for their home
  • Join and attend a Crossfit class


Ultimately, customers choose solutions that they perceive as most convenient, effective, and least price-intensive to accomplish their jobs. Customers want solutions that help them get their jobs done better and faster, and they also want solutions that satisfy their emotional and social considerations.


Maximizing and Minimizing Criteria

Discover the criteria that people use to hire and fire products when trying to perform a job. Do this to find out which features that your customers prioritize and concentrate your design, development, and marketing efforts on those features.


Examples of maximizing and minimizing criteria when trying to lose weight:

  • Maximize calories burned in a workout session.
  • Maximize weight loss per week.
  • Minimize cost of exercise equipment and gear.
  • Minimize time to begin a workout.
  • Minimize distance to a location to exercise.
  • Minimize the likelihood of injury.


For each job, you would ask:

  • Which of these criteria are most and least important to the customer?
  • Which of these criteria are most and least satisfied from the perspective of the customer?
  • Which of these criteria represent parts of the job where customers struggle the most?


This approach provides the following benefits:

  • Gives a sense of direction
  • Identifies gaps in current products and services
  • Helps spot opportunities for new products and services
  • Helps spot opportunities for new customer segments




  • Designamyte and Balaz, A. (2015) Uncovering the jobs that customers hire products and services to do. Available at: https://jtbd.info/uncovering-the-jobs-that-customers-hire-products-and-services-to-do-834269006f50#.coj5b335e (Accessed: 12 January 2017).
  • Ulwick, A.W. and Osterwalder, A. (2016) Jobs to be done: Theory to practice. Available at: https://www.amazon.com/Jobs-be-Done-Theory-Practice/dp/0990576744/ (Accessed: 12 January 2017).
  • Christensen, C.M. and Raynor, M.E. (2013) The innovator’s solution: Creating and sustaining successful growth. Available at: https://www.amazon.com/Innovators-Solution-Creating-Sustaining-Successful/dp/1422196577/ (Accessed: 12 January 2017).
  • Silverstein, D., Samuel, P. and DeCarlo, N. (2012) The innovator’s Toolkit: 50+ techniques for predictable and sustainable organic growth. Available at: https://www.amazon.com/Innovators-Toolkit-Techniques-Predictable-Sustainable/dp/1118298101/ (Accessed: 12 January 2017).
  • Christensen, C.M., Dillon, K., Hall, T. and Duncan, D.S. (2016) Competing against luck: The story of innovation and customer choice. Available at: https://www.amazon.com/Competing-Against-Luck-Innovation-Customer/dp/0062435612/ (Accessed: 12 January 2017).


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