On the Utility of Thinking in Terms of Jobs-to-Be-Done

Cottonball clouds In a recent post examining the future of retail, I used the jobs-to-be-done approach to break down the industry. And I’ve been using it more in other ways. It’s quite useful as a basis for innovation.

The premise of the jobs-to-be-done approach is that it provides a much better basis for innovation. The focus is on unmet needs of customers. Compare this to asking wide open, pie-in-the-sky types of questions.

I thought about this when I saw this question posted on Quora:

What currently nonexistent websites would you want to be created?

Wow. Talk about an open ended question. I don’t know about you, but that question doesn’t help me. I get brain freeze. I need a prompt to come up with something. Wide open questions like that are somewhat divorced from what people actually need. And will generate a lot of ideas off the mark, or none because it’s too divorced from what people are thinking about (although one guy has an idea there).

Now I’ll describe a different situation. For Spigit, I often find myself needing to come up with a new idea to show off the system functionality. If I used that question from Quora, I’d find myself straining to generate ideas that pass the smell test.

So instead, I’ve been using the jobs-to-be-done framework. I think of my own jobs-to-be-done. Here’s one I actually used to come up with an idea for a client demo:

When I’m traveling with my family on vacation, I want to keep the kids entertained happily the entire trip.

From this job-to-be-done, I came up with an idea for a long haul family SUV (or could be a minivan). It’d have storage for games, and a flat surface for playing them. A refrigeration unit on board to keep beverages and food fresh. Multimedia for videos, music and games. It would take some design genius to develop. But it’s a vehicle I’d actually take a good look at.

[tweetmeme source = “bhc3”]

And that’s the point. The jobs-to-be-done approach is incredibly useful for generating ideas that are relevant and actually have potential. You’re plumbing the depths of what people really feel and what they actually want to accomplish. A powerful head start on innovating.

OK, let’s take this one out with a little Holiday Road.