Jobs to be Done versus Design Thinking: which one for your next product launch?

Over the years, Design Thinking has emerged as the default go-to framework for innovation, but is it really the best way to innovate, develop, and launch new products? Let’s break it down.

When it comes to launching successful products, there’s this ongoing debate: Jobs to be Done or Design Thinking? As product folk and leaders, we’re often caught between choosing a single approach for innovation or figuring out the right blend of tools. To add to this, we often have to challenge an organization that is stuck in a certain way of doing things, making it harder to do our job.

In life, we know that relying on just one method often falls short. So, what if I told you that it’s not about picking sides but finding the perfect synergy?

Over the years, Design Thinking has emerged as the default go-to framework for innovation, but is it really the best way to innovate, develop, and launch new products?

Customers often come to us even more confused and frustrated, having spent a ton of money with design firms only to get another overengineered, feature-bloated product that ultimately fails in the market.

So where exactly does design thinking fall short – if at all?

Why does presenting Jobs to be Done (JTBD) and Design Thinking as rivals create a false dilemma? And how can the two play together to uncover reliable insight and build products that resonate with customers?

Are Jobs to be Done and Design Thinking really different?

For some background reading, check out Jobs to be Done framework, and a breakdown of design thinking.

Though JTBD and Design Thinking are similar concepts, the way they’re applied sets them apart.

Design thinking is a process and way of working, sort of like Agile. It’s more about redesigning products or services or changing how organizations work.

JTBD is a broader strategy – and a way to innovate for the long haul. It’s a mindset; an empathetic perspective teams need to embody and embrace before they start with design thinking.

Think of JTBD as the warm-up before the game – though, it can very well be the whole game, too.

They also differ in how they’re used.

JTBD focuses on unmet needs and, as such, is a powerhouse for innovating, finding new markets, and launching products rooted in real customer insight.

Design thinking can work great as a framework and a workflow but it might need a little boost in the innovation department.

If your aim is to innovate and set your product apart, starting with JTBD is the way to go.

Where does design thinking fall short of expectations?

On its own, design thinking has some limitations.

It looks at needs and problems – what needs do our customers have and how can we help solve their problems – but it does so without bounds.

JTBD adds another dimension to this, adding context, motives, and desired outcomes. It provides a no-nonsense, laser-focused approach to narrowing down ideas and preventing the dreaded feature creep.

When done right, JTBD uncovers what customers value most, so your team knows what to build, and what not to build.

By doing JTBD first, you’re doing the heavy lifting at the start.

You define with precision the outcomes customers want and you give your team the parameters to innovate within. It’s not about restricting but liberating – having this clear frame boosts your team’s creative confidence.

You can prototype and test solutions knowing you’re on the right track.

Can JTBD and Design Thinking be used together?

Absolutely. Design thinking and JTBD can and should be seen and used as a complementary set of tools rather than one tool over the other.

Jobs to be Done is a precursor for effective design thinking – it enhances each stage of the process with context, depth, and clarity.


By putting empathizing in a specific context, JTBD gives your team a clear direction – a core set of things to empathize around instead of wondering where to start. It gives bounds within which teams should use their empathetic perspective.

Jobs to be Done puts empathizing in context – it gives bounds within which teams should use their empathetic perspective.

Bob Moesta

By creating a world where the product or solution doesn’t even exist, you can look through the customer’s lens without getting tangled up in your own product. You can understand how customers actually see you (or products in your category), rather than how you want to be seen.

JTBD helps achieve this by using solution-agnostic interview techniques. You can learn how to do this in my JTBD interview workshop.

Framing the problem = Defining the job(s) to be done

Defining the job the customer is trying to do helps you nail down the actual problem.

JTBD gives you the pushes and the pulls, the context and the desired outcomes, and what customers have to give up in order to do reach those outcomes.

It’s like putting together the pieces of a puzzle to frame the right problem – and frame the problem right, even before thinking up solutions.


JTBD takes the guesswork out of the ideation phase and gives you parameters to ideate within.

This focused approach fuels innovation and original thinking in more areas than just product.

You may realize you don’t need to change the product at all, but rather some aspect of how people buy it – reducing anxieties or removing barriers.

It’s exactly what happened when we worked with Autobooks – we only changed the sales process and halved the time from lead to customer while doubling conversions. But perhaps more importantly, helped the team realize they can’t always code their way through problems.

Prototype and Test

Design thinking often misses the context in which customers make choices.

JTBD dives deep into why, when, and how customers make specific choices or hire certain products and provides real insights. These insights guide teams what to prototype and test and what to – which ultimately leads to launching more successful products that resonate with customers.

JTBD also reveals how customers evaluate your product, giving you concrete measures of success aligned with those of your customer.

JTBD is a prerequisite for successful Design Thinking

JTBD sets the stage for successful design thinking.

It provides a clear understanding of why customers behave the way they do, allowing you to build the right things instead of trying to feature your way into innovation.

JTBD studies people’s evolving context so your products continue to fit in their changing worlds. So, if you want to nail your next product launch – and the ones after that – consider both JTBD and design thinking.

They work great hand in hand, and starting with JTBD can make all the difference. It might challenge the norm, but it’s a strategy that could transform your approach and lead to more successful outcomes.

We apply JTBD in our consumer behavior consulting, so give us a shout to start off your project in the right way.