Find Opportunities with Jobs To Be Done

The famous Harvard professor Theodore Levitt once said: “People don’t want a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole.”

The drill is a means to an end; the goal is making a hole. (Some have even gone further and contend that the goal is to hang a picture).

This perspective shifts focus from the product to the problem people are seeking to solve, called jobs to be done (JTBDs). Clayton Christensen outlined a theory of JTBD in his landmark book The Innovator’s Solution, the follow-up book to his revolutionary work The Innovator’s Dilemma.

The concept is straightforward: people “hire” products and services to get jobs done. For instance, you might hire a new suite to make you look good at a job interview. Or, someone can hire a chocolate bar to relieve daily stress.

For each job, there are three aspects or dimensions to consider:

  • Functional job: the practical task at hand to meet a person’s requirements
  • Emotional job: the feelings a person desires while completing a job
  • Social job: how a person believes he or she will be perceived socially while using the solution


For service providers, JTBD offer important insight: find those jobs that people can’t get done adequately, and address them directly.

Identifying these unmet needs can be done by looking at two factors for each job:

  • The level of importance associated with getting the job done
  • The level of satisfaction associated with getting the job done

Graphed on a chart, the jobs that are highly important but least satisfied should be targeted first.


Solutions that solve for these problems have a higher chance of being adopted and consequently a higher chance of succeeding.

There is no guarantee, of course, but the JTBD framework can provide teams focus and a rationale for making decisions.


There are lots of resources on the web about JTBD. Below are some of my favorite. In particular, see Tony Ulwick’s work on identifying opportunities, along with several case studies. The good folks at Intercom also have many practical examples of using JTBD in their offering development.

About Jim Kalbach

Head of Customer Experience at MURAL


  1. Pingback: Lesenswert: Juni 2016 |

  2. CH

    Hi there – I just watched your webinar with UserTesting about mapping experiences. While I was watching, you talked about the diagrams illustrating the individual/interaction/organization based on personas. However, much of what I’ve read or heard about the JTBD framework dismisses personas.

    I came to your site looking to see if you touched on this topic and found this post. Still wondering though, how might the 2 methodologies work together.

    Also, the examples you provided in your webinar seem to focus on larger projects or projects with more disruptive change. Can this be applied to more incremental changes on a product?

    • Jim Kalbach

      Hi. Thanks for commenting.

      I’m not sure JTBD completely dismisses personas. It’s just a different perspective. Instead of focusing on the cognitive and psychological, JTBD focuses on behavioral aspects. But there is still a person who is the actor. In fact, Strategyn, a leading consultancy with JTBD, talks about JTBD-based personas. I think it’s a rethinking of what personas represent.

      JTBD and experience mapping can definitely be used for more incremental changes. In fact, very often outcomes are incremental in terms of the solutions a team comes up with.

  3. Michael Franken

    Hi Jim, thanks for the post.

    I have about 15 years experience working on services development and product/solution management — which is how IBM, Cisco, Accenture have framed projects in the JTBD notion. Lance Bettencourt, wrote extensively about this in his book “Service Innovation” (2010), and he continues as a top thought leader in my view. There’s also great resources through Strategyn (consulting firm), and Service360 Partners.

    I agree, JTBD applies for incremental changes, and hope the following is helpful:

    * There’s service line extensions and incremental improvements, as a start.
    * Also, in today’s dynamic world, new personas come into play as companies adapt and compete.
    * Firms must engage customers more effectively and faster. This usually brings changes in JTBD.

    p.s. Jim, I came across your TEDx talk on jazz and radical collaboration – glad to see your blog, will contact you separately, great stuff.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: