Unpacking Jobs To Be Done

Series 1: Episode 7 | 1 May 2022

Show notes | Transcript

In product design and development, the thinking is often on what’s next. The challenge is defining what’s next for the consumer, since most of us can’t really envision how a product can be improved.

In today’s episode of the Re-Wired Show, we dive into the concept of ‘Jobs to be Done,’ a process for determining what the next steps are in developing new products that will help consumers solve their current problems and help them achieve more in the future.

  • You’ll learn about the concept of ‘Jobs to be Done,’ including what constitutes a job, and how defining them can help create progress.
  • You’ll discover why there’s a lack of symmetry between the problem consumers are experiencing, and the solution they believe they need.
  • You’ll also learn how areas of your business such as Marketing can benefit from JTBD by helping to define and then educate consumers on problems they didn’t realize they’d been struggling with.

Join us for this fascinating discussion around Jobs to be Done and gain clarity on creating future product offerings for your customers.

Enjoy!

What You’ll Learn in this Show:

  • A definition of the concept of ‘Jobs to be Done,’ and how it’s related to progress.
  • The lack of symmetry between the problem a consumer has, and the solution they are looking for.
  • How JTBD can help areas such as marketing, in helping consumers to see problems they didn’t even know they were struggling with.
  • And so much more…

 

Hosts

Unpacking Jobs To Be Done – transcript

Greg Engle
I think that the thing we often say about personas is they’re a model of how we think that group of people always act. 

Bob Moesta
Yes. 

Greg Engle
And what we know from Joss Whedon is people are dynamic. People make decisions because of contexts that are in their lives all the time. 

Bob Moesta
Yep. 

Greg Engle
So yes, I can over index to being somebody that eats organic, limits my meat quantity to a certain a amount over the week.

Bob Moesta
You’re talking about yourself, 

Greg Engle
All those things. But there are going to be times where I don’t fit that. 

Bob Moesta
When we’re on the road, for example.

Greg Engle
Could be on the road, it could be when I’m with other people that don’t eat the same way I do. We make compromises or we do things that are out of our behavior are out of our core behavior a lot.

Bob Moesta
Welcome to the circuit breaker podcast where we challenge the status quo of innovation and new product development. We’ll talk about tools and skills and methodologies used to build better products and make you a better consumer. I’m Bob Moesta, the co-founder of the rewired group, I’m one of your co-hosts and we’re joined by Greg Engel, who is my co-founder and chief Bob interpreter. Join us as we trip the circuit, and give you time to reset, reorganize and recharge your brain to build better products.

Greg Engle
Alright Bob, today I want to tackle the topic we talked about a little bit in past podcasts about supply and demand and that rural world view of that. I wanted to dive into the tool we use to find demand. That tool is jobs to be done. 

Bob Moesta
Finally, we get to talk about this.

Greg Engle
You were somebody that was an architect of it, a pioneer of it, I want to get your ideas of what it was, or what it is, and how it’s used and so on. 

Bob Moesta
Do we want to tap into where it came from, or don’t we want to touch that one yet. 

Greg Engle
We’ll see how your mind works. I kind of know how the story is going to go. But we’ll see. 

Bob Moesta
Okay. 

Greg Engle
Give a little bit from your perspective. 

Bob Moesta
Yep. 

Greg Engle
What is ‘jobs to be done’?

Bob Moesta
Jobs to be done is about understanding the predicate. Let’s break it down ‘Jobs’ and ‘To be done’. What are the people going to do next? It’s not about the job they do now. It’s about what the job is, in the future that they’re trying to get done. To me, that as its foundation is about innovation. How do we build what’s next? Most people can’t tell you what’s next. They can only spout what they know, talking about the problem that they have. In some cases, they tell you why something would work, or they might have a solution. But they’ll tell you what they don’t want more than what they do want. You start to realize that when you go to develop a product, you need details that typically most marketing research don’t get, they’ll get the attributes, they’ll build a persona around somebody. The reality is that doesn’t tell me why they do it. A job is about the progress that somebody’s trying to make, in a very specific circumstance, and understanding the outcomes that they’re seeking and the tradeoffs they’re willing to make.

Greg Engle
Give us a little bit of what it means to do jobs done to you, so I get its progress. But what else does it tell us? How does it help us? Why do it?

Bob Moesta
Well, the first thing I realized is as somebody who’s dyslexic, I can’t read a report, what I would realize is people would summarize what people would say, but it wouldn’t carry what I would think is the intent or meaning behind it. Part of the process of uncovering jobs or discovering jobs, because we don’t create them, the consumer creates them. It’s understanding the context and the outcome and being able to empirically do it as opposed to theoretically do it, meaning we need to talk to people because most purchases have some angle of irrationality. Part of this is when you look at a consumer from the supply side we assume symmetry, if they have this problem they want this solution, or this outcome. It takes too long; they want it faster. You start to realize there’s a lack of symmetry between it. Trying to figure out what progress people are really trying to make, and how do they make that decision to say ‘Today’s the day I’m going to pick something new’. That’s what jobs is about.

Greg Engle
So when you use the word progress, in a context of jobs we got, what do you mean?

Bob Moesta
That’s a good question because I use the word a lot. Progress is that feeling that you’ve done better, what you were doing before, or what you’re doing now is not good enough, and that I know there’s a better way. There’s that yearning to be better. In the inherent, in the aspect of progress, it’s trying to understand what does ‘better’ mean, and why now? 

Greg Engle
What I often tell people is, the way we define progress is through what the consumer is trying to do. The only way to do that is to understand all the elements of a job to be done. It is the context, the desired outcomes, their pushes and pulls or anxieties and habits. It is the hiring and firing criteria. It’s the cane or the basic quality for each job because each job has different quality. 

Bob Moesta
Correct, different definitions of quality, if you will.

Greg Engle
All of that is what progress means. 

Bob Moesta
Or a way for us to articulate what they mean by progress. Think of it as these are the ways in which we talk about what progress means for them.

Greg Engle
I often hear people say, Job to be done is my product has a job or this product does this job. That’s not true because the consumer is going where they can judge progress. 

Bob Moesta
In the early days, we talked about functions of things, what’s the function of something, we would talk about it as the job. What’s the job of this system? What’s the job of this product? But the product doesn’t have a job, it’s consumers who hire it for a job. A glass sitting on the table with no interaction with consumers, it can do a lot of things. But until it has people, context, and desired outcomes, we can’t tell you what the function is because I can throw the glass at you.

Greg Engle
What we’re talking about, we use shortcuts, we’re using the word progress, it has a very deep meaning.

Bob Moesta
Yes, we could do a whole podcast on what is progress.

Greg Engle
We want to look at the progress that people are trying to make. You said something interesting – it’s jobs to be done, it’s what people are going to do. But then you said – people can’t tell you what they’re going to do. So how do you find the job if people can’t tell you?

Bob Moesta
I think the best way to think about predicting the future is you must have some elements of the past because everything is a derivative of the past, and everything’s built on the past. We’re not trying to predict; we’re trying to identify what are the critical elements of the dynamic. You mentioned in a previous context that everything’s dynamic, ultimately this is not about people, it’s about people through time. If I can understand the kinds of things that have happened to people that cause them to think about doing something different, to figure out how to describe it, and then how to do it, we then have a pattern, or a pattern language. We can start to say, if they did it this way, how do we figure out other people who are struggling this way and help more. Clay and I would have the phrase around the end of one. Most people would say, ‘no, we need a sample of 1000 people to tell us what’s true’. What Clay and I would talk about was how do we study one thing and make sense of it. In the end of one, explain it. Ultimately, that helps us understand the patterns, it’s analyze and aggregate as opposed to aggregating and then analyzing.

Greg Engle
If we set up proc doesn’t have a job.

Bob Moesta
People only have jobs, even companies don’t have jobs, people have jobs.

Greg Engle
That gets confusing because if that’s the case, then how do I know who to interview and what am I doing? Am I looking at or an industry? How do I rectify that.

Bob Moesta
In math, there’s the difference between taking a mass of something and then segmenting it or dividing it up. The aspect of starting with individual things and figuring out how to aggregate them together. Though the math sounds very similar, the underlying principle is very different. Part of this is being able to see the patterns by which people do things.

Greg Engle
Let me try to ask the question differently because I think I understand that answer there.

Bob Moesta
But that’s not the answer you want. 

Greg Engle
The question really is, if I’m going to go into business of health clubs, I’m going to open my own fitness center, I’m going to open my own gym, and the gym doesn’t have a job. Who do I go interview? Am I looking at other gyms? Am I looking at peloton? Who am I looking at?

Bob Moesta
The way we would always start would be when you’re up and running, and you’re really successful. What are people not going to be doing? What are they going to fire to say, they’re going to come here? It could be other gyms, it could be getting off the couch, it could be that they want to lose weight, there’s a whole bunch of different scenarios around it. The first way that we would start is to say let’s talk to people who have gone from doing one thing to doing another. It might be let’s talk to people who lost weight. The other thing is I wouldn’t talk to people who just join gyms, I want to talk to people who join gyms and worked out, versus joining a gym and not working out.

Greg Engle
What I hear you saying is, you want to understand what a gym is. A gym is many things to different people well. 

Bob Moesta
The competitive set is very wide. Again, the objective of why somebody joins the gym is what’s important, which could be the gym competes with diet, with going to the bar, because it’s social. To realize what are the things that cause them to say; Today’s the day I’m going to go to the gym? Why would they join your gym? Why did they come to the gym? When do they have good workouts? What does that look like? When do they feel like they haven’t made progress? Understanding the big higher level and a little higher level?

Greg Engle
I think what we’re saying here is, you need to understand what your competitive set is from the consumer perspective, an interview on that. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to saying I’d interview people that went to a bar, but I have to realize people will pick between me and a bar at some point. When I’m starting the business, I’m probably not going to interview people that are going to a bar. 

Bob Moesta
Nope. 

Greg Engle
But I would want a vast difference of what I think fitness is. I might interview people that picked up an app that helps them run a 5k.

Bob Moesta
Think of something like noom, it took off during the pandemic, but the whole aspect beforehand was how many people want to go to the gym, but can’t? Can I have something that’s there when I need it? It’s like the trainer I need when I need them as opposed to having to schedule everything and fit into their time. There’s a whole different aspect of where those struggling moments are, when you see struggling moments, that’s where you need to be innovating it. 

Greg Engle
We talked about different things of this. We are talking kind of what progress is. We talked about what a job is, is progress. We define progress as the elements of a job to be done. But how is it useful? I get all this information. What do I get? Do I have a million data points? What do I do?

Bob Moesta
I always say an interview has a terabyte of data in it and can be used in so many ways. First, it can be used both in product, to be able to understand the underlying feature sets that you need to put into the product. In order for people to have the big hire, you have to be able to understand that in some cases, the new features you’re going to develop because of the struggling moments that the app is creating. Every innovation creates a different struggling moment, which requires a second innovation. That’s why the evolution of products is always happening. To me, it’s about being able to understand it from a product side. The other part is from sales and marketing. To understand where the first thought happens. How do we create the space in the brain? How do people talk about it as the problem and how do they talk about it as the outcomes they want? If we speak features and benefits, most people don’t even know the features and benefits they’re looking for to begin we started spouting with them, but it doesn’t resonate with the language. The other part is there’s this notion of resonance, the whole aspect of when you use the language of customers, the words that are in their head is what makes them go ‘you know me’. Part of this is to be very focused on the language they use, not the language you want to want to use. Marketing and sales, we wrote the book demand side sales, it really has helped people understand how to get ready and understand what job they are in, or what progress are they trying to make? Where are they in the timeline, their buying timeline? How do you help them make progress through that timeline? There are multiple places all the way to strategy and strategic alliances for example when we did the moving, we didn’t want to be moving, we get the trucks to do that. We knew that having that element as part of our offering in how we built houses and helped people move to our houses and move out of their old houses, that was an essential part. We figured out how to make the right strategic alliances to do that. 

Greg Engle
I think jobs helps people because we look at the jobs done, and we look at the clusters of people. It’s not one thing that makes somebody move, it’s a group of shared contexts, shared outcomes that make up a cluster. It makes it easier for me to make decisions when I take that pure demand, I look at my supply side, it makes it clearer. Where if I don’t have that clarity of pure demand without the bias of my industry, business, and capabilities, I’m able to see more opportunities when I bring it over to the supply side because there are some groupings. I’m not trying to either titrate too high or too low on what I’m trying to hit, I’m hitting a group of people. That is predictable behavior, when giving the right context and outcomes that they want.

Bob Moesta
I think it gets back to how is this helpful. Well, this helps marketing realize how to help make people aware of the context they’re in, help create the context. Make people hear the fact that suddenly, they need something because, they didn’t even know they struggle with it, that they know, it causes the angst to do something.

Greg Engle
There’s a bunch of different consumer tools, demand tools, consumer centric tools out there. There’s jazzy done, personas, segmentations.

Bob Moesta
Yes, there’s need state segmentation, demographic segmentation, psychographic segment. 

Greg Engle
There’s a lot. How is jobs be done different than personas. How is it different personas?

Bob Moesta
Again, you’ll disagree with me on this, but I think the fact is, if you’re doing nothing around the consumer, personas is better than nothing. Because at least it helps you understand the range and what you’re trying to do. But personas 1. Don’t consider variation 2. It’s all correlative, it’s aggregation of things put together. But when you try to find that person or that persona, they don’t exist. You end up engineering to something that doesn’t exist. The reason why personas are important is that from a marketing perspective, I buy media that way. That’s how they offer up where to put my ads, a lot of that work is having to do with placements. It’s the exchange language between media and marketing. It’s not enough for us in product development at a minimum, because at some point in time, we need to know what causes them to do things and we need to think it’s not just who they are, but what’s going on around them that make them make the decisions. And just because I work out all the time, I eat healthy, I’m a vegan and all this other stuff, there are moments in time where I’m going to have some ice cream, so, it’s context that drives it more than just people.

Greg Engle
The thing we often say about personas is, they are a model of how we think that group of people always act. 

Bob Moesta
Yes.

Greg Engle
What we know from Joss Whedon is people are dynamic, people make decisions because of contexts that are in their lives all the time. I can over index to being somebody that eats organic, limits my meet quantity to a certain amount over the week.

Bob Moesta
You’re talking about yourself, 

Greg Engle
But there are going to be times where I don’t fit that. 

Bob Moesta
When we’re on the road, for example.

Greg Engle
Could be on the road, it could be when I’m with other people that don’t eat the same way I do. We make compromises or we do things that are out of our behavior are out of our core behavior a lot. And we know that’s true because of how many new products go into the world. If people always stay in their steady state, we wouldn’t need to develop anything. People would be happy all the time.

Bob Moesta
The amount of new products that go into a grocery store every year is astronaut like 27,000 new skews a year or something like that. The reality is, they don’t get everywhere and less than 100 make over 20 million.

Greg Engle
If we know people want to change, and we know people are willing to try new things, why do so many fail?

Bob Moesta
Because I think they’re built on the premise of, build it and they will come. We should try orange flavor, grape flavor, we should try, as opposed to understanding what flavor does to drive them to help make progress. You start to realize, you have what I call logical incrementalism in a pinhead, it’s like we’re going to have different sizes and different flavors. When I walked to the shampoo aisle, there’s 47,000 things I like, I don’t even know how to pick, how do I know which, half the time, I used to use PERT and it was one of those things where it went away, what do I do now? Then you trial and error, but the fact is, the party trying to be able to understand what the skew is going to do to help make progress for people is what’s most important. People don’t want more choice. They want good choice.

Greg Engle
When we talk about that, and we talk about how people make their choices, and they go through life. 

Bob Moesta
What we found is that it’s very hard to describe progress when there is no choice. So I always make the comparison between auto insurance and health insurance, because most of the time health insurance is provided by your employer, you pick one of them, you don’t choose it. There’s this notion of somebody gives you a list of good, better, and best and you make your choice. When you do auto insurance, you got to figure out like, how far am I driving, you know way more about the details, because at some point you can do something about it. Health insurance does not work that way, it’s very hard to get people to understand what my insurance really provides, without them paying for it or doing something for it? when it’s when it’s given to them it’s very hard to see jobs is not a tool that will help.

Greg Engle
One of the things that people often ask us. In the qualitative jobs we don’t, sizing a market is probably not something you want to do off the tenor of user.

Bob Moesta
Once you have 10 interviews, you understand the underlying 20% of causes that get to 80% of the effects. From that, you can build a quantitative study to start to look at some of those things and be able to say, I can find people who switched and understand people’s contexts. Then how many people are in that context and are dissatisfied.

Greg Engle
I bring that up because I think what’s important to know about any tool, be it jobs to be done via personas, be it segmentation, is when to use it, how to use it, and when not to use it. Because what we often see is people making decisions on with personas on things that personas probably shouldn’t be used for. It’s not that personas are bad, and I agree with you, we’re not here to tell anybody that any one research methodology is not useful, that’s not my expertise. I can’t make a judgment on every single piece of thing out there. Any knowledge is good, as long as you know how to use it, and when to use it.

Bob Moesta
What I would say is quoting Dr. Taguchi ‘there’s way more unknown than known and what you need is multiple ways to look at it’.

Greg Engle
We would never say don’t use something. Anybody that spouts those things, I don’t know how to deal with that because I just don’t believe that’s the case. I believe the case is using tools that work for you, but not misusing them, one example is we’ve all been in the situation where we had a hex screw in the wall, but only a flat screwdriver, we jam that in there, we twist it around and one of two things happens. We damage our screwdriver, or we damage the screw.

Bob Moesta
Or we damage the thing around the screw. 

Greg Engle
The whole thing is, I should know what tool to use, and stop misusing tools. If I just went and got the right screwdriver, 

Bob Moesta
the right tool for the right thing.

Greg Engle
It would be a much easier thing. 

Bob Moesta
I agree. 

Greg Engle
Do you want to tell a story? Let’s tell a story of how Joss Whedon came about Bob Moestas head?

Bob Moesta
Well, there’s a couple things. 1. It all started in the late 80s, when I was working with Dr. Taguchi and I was working at Ford, we’re talking about the functions of systems. What we realized is that in school, we were always taught about problems, not functions. It was a hard thing to get across, we talked about this notion of, as you’re building a braking system, what’s the job that it does? It was a surrogate for the function of the system, which is to stop the car, how does it work? I would use that language with the development teams I was working with around those kinds of concepts. It started as what’s the job of the system, very much on the technical side, it’s very deep, way beyond the consumer side, they don’t know how a brake works. 

Greg Engle
That sounds very supply side. 

Bob Moesta
It is all supply side. It was born from the supply side. The closer I got to the consult consumer and customer, I could build better product, wouldn’t over engineer it. As I got closer to that, I realized that the function we were talking about, what’s the function the customer wants? We’d start to look at weightings, like what’s important. You realize that when you do these importance ratings of what’s important to one person and not to the other you see that suddenly context was different when they would value one feature over another or one attribute over another. Ultimately, we get to a point where we can see the basic understanding of consumers is not just about who they are, and what are their important attributes. But what are they trying to do? Why they’re trying to do it? I would get demographic segmentation or psychographic segmentation and I would always go back to, why are they buying it? What’s causing them to say today’s the day? By flipping this over to the supply, or the demand side of the world, we were able to realize there’s other methods and tools that need to be developed, because we need to figure out how to fit into people’s lives as opposed to pushing our product into people’s lives. Pull versus push.

Greg Engle
Can you give a quick example of something not working because of context?

Bob Moesta
Yeah. I ask people do like steak, or do you like hot dogs? Their response ‘Well, I like both’. What I would say is, the last time I had hot dogs, I have four kids, they play ice hockey, we’re running around, the last thing we want to do is come home to have homework, pull dinner together fast enough that everybody we know is going to eat, get the homework done and get everything done. If I pull a steak into that situation, it takes too long, I don’t know if the kids are all going to eat it, I don’t want to waste it, it’s very expensive, all those kinds of things. It talks about a steak situation, it typically has some element of a ‘you did well’ reward, an accomplishment of some sort, treating themselves. Usually taking a longer time making sure you’re sitting down, doing it with several people, enjoying it with other food, there’s a whole different dynamic around it. If I put hot dogs in that situation, it doesn’t work either, you start to realize that it’s not that people like steak, or they like hotdogs, it’s the question of when and where do they like staking out and why? What is it about those experiences that make it fit?

Greg Engle
As we close, I want to leave that kind of question with the audience. I want you to think about a time or in the next couple of weeks as you’re thinking about this, that you’ve tried something and it didn’t work, but you’ve had it before, and it worked. Why didn’t it work? You’ll learn that context, location, different things come into that for why it didn’t work for you. My example would be trying to eat in the car, if you have chocolate, it’s not very good. But chocolate’s delicious, everywhere else, somewhere else. It’s those types of things I want you to think about and why it didn’t work at that time, even though it might have been one of your go to’s at other times. That helps explain jobs that you don’t.

Bob Moesta
Thanks for listening to the circuit breaker podcast. If you haven’t already, please subscribe so you won’t miss an episode. If you know somebody who’s stuck on the innovation treadmill, please share it.

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