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The Basics of Jobs-to-be-Done

"Your customers are not
buying your products,
they are hiring them to
get a job done."

Harvard Business School

What is Jobs-to-be-Done

What is Jobs-to-be-Done

Jobs-to-be-done is a term introduced by Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen to explain that customers aren’t buying your products, but rather hiring them to get a job done. Other people have stated this concept in different ways. As far back as the 19th century, Thomas Edison said, "Anything that won't sell, I don't want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success." A customer's job-to-be-done is the utility a product should satisfy.

In the 1960s Theodore Levitt at the Harvard Business School was famous for saying, "People don't want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole." In other words, focus on the customer's job, not the product, in order to achieve success.

And more recently, Steve Jobs said product development should "start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology." The job-to-be-done is the customer experience. And Apple became the most valuable company in the world with this focus.


Learn how to figure out your Job-to-be-Done >

Why Jobs-to-be-Done works

Why Jobs-to-be-Done works

Most product roadmaps are full of ideas that seem to cause more disagreements around the customer needs than helping product teams build meaningful solutions. Valuable hours are wasted on arguments around whether or not a product is actually meeting the needs of their customers. Targets keep changing over time, making it nearly impossible to track success. And because most roadmaps don’t quantify how severe the problem is, how people are actually feeling, and how much they’re willing to pay for a solution - clarity and alignment across teams seem nearly impossible.

The ultimate problem is that there are no common criteria of what makes a good idea within a product roadmap. The commitment to “no bad idea” brainstorming is kicked off with optimism, but most often ends with a defeated team who works their way further from the real customer needs.

Jobs-to-be-Done helps you get your team aligned and gives you that criteria required for a focused roadmap. With JTBD, you’ll understand how many people are experiencing the problem, how severe it is and what they’re willing to pay to solve it. This framework also allows you to identify opportunity you've missed and understand the full breadth of the customer situation.

As Henry Ford notably said, "If I asked customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." In other words, don't ask customers what product they want, ask them about what job (i.e. what goal) they need to accomplish and how they struggle to get the job done.

This is thrv's key difference: we identify the needs in your customer's job-to-be-done and bridge the gap between empathizing with your customer and building a high growth product roadmap that will beat your competition while measuring the success of your roadmap.

Learn how Kellogg used JTBD to identify customer insights >


Get the power of our
in-person training, online.

Through our JTBD Online Course, you'll learn how to take the jobs-to-be-done framework and implement it within your own team.

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How to implement Jobs-to-be-Done

How to implement Jobs-to-be-Done

Explore these fundamental topics in using the JTBD method and learn how it differs from traditional product management approaches. You can use JTBD to discover unmet needs in any market and develop high-growth products that fulfill those needs. To learn more about Jobs-to-be-Done, sign up for our online course.

Market Sizing >

Jobs-to-be-Done market sizing identifies stable, attractive markets, avoiding product-based market mistakes such as under-sizing and targeting a disappearing market.

Finding Unmet Needs >

Unmet needs in the job are stable, objective, measurable, and precise articulations of customer problems.

Customer Segmentation >

Demographics don't cause people to use products. Segment your market by common struggles, not demographics.

Product Roadmap Prioritization >

Use the unmet needs in the job to prioritize the customer problems you will target and the features you will deliver.

Identifying Customer Needs >

Satisfying customer needs better than competitors is the key to revenue and equity growth. Learn how to get cross-functional teams to agree on your customer's needs.

Competitive Analysis >

Set a threshold for new products by measuring how fast and accurately your customers satisfy needs with the existing solutions.

Evaluating Product Ideas >

Use the unmet needs in the job and the competitive benchmarks as objective criteria to judge if a new idea is worth investment.

Start the JTBD Course