Lately I’ve noticed four problems when attempting to teach or explain Jobs To Be Done to someone else. As JTBD grows in understanding, these will hopefully smooth over. Until then, I’ve prepared myself in advance.
Challenge 1: De-coupling the Reptilian Brain
We all understand the Triune Brain concept. It’s an easily explainable story, and equally practical. It applies to basically everything.
So it’s difficult to prevent an untrained JTBD thinker from scaling down to lizard thought.
Far too often, they will associate the “job to be done” with some core primal outcome. Of course it’s always about sex, food, sleep, poop, pride, fear, love, or predicability. But that doesn’t help us properly assess the job to be done and subsequently design a product or service someone would hire.
Instead, I challenge them to look at the situation. Then I urge them to describe what capabilities are needed to solve the problem. That’s the job to be done.
Challenge 2: Situation Taxonomy
Speaking of the situation, I find it difficult to properly define its scope. We’ll scale up and down, often for far too long, in search of the real and complete situation.
Let’s take the classic milkshake example. What would you say is the situation? Some options, in order of broadest to narrowest:
- I’m hungry
- I’m hungry and in my car
- I’m hungry and in my car and by an on-ramp
- I’m hungry, in my car by an on-ramp and don’t want to be hungry again in a few hours
- I’m hungry, in my car by an on-ramp, it’s 8am and I don’t want my breakfast to be so light that I’m hungry again by lunch
- I’m hungry, coming up to an on-ramp in my car at 8am, I want to be full until lunch, have a free hand and cup holder, $3 in cash, and don’t care about my next dental check up
And what if I’m hungry, but 10 minutes after I get on the free way? What situation beholdens to other situations?
What’s the real situation? It’s tough to draw a line. When do core parts of the situation transition to simple attributes? I see the uneasiness of being unable to answer happen all the time.
My response is that it doesn’t matter. Just pick one. Eventually you’ll circle in on a true description of the situation, but that only happens after deeper consideration. Until then, don’t let the taxonomy of the situation hold you up.
Challenge 3: Comfort with 2D Thinking
Extending the thought from Challenge 1, I see linear thinking as a problem. People will set up a progression, almost like mental dominos, and strive to follow point to point. The deeper desire here is to find the “root”. Without realizing, they think that A causes B causes C etc. So obviously the goal should be to find A, then solve for A. They think solving A is the job to be done.
But that’s not the case. It is not linear. (This is how we get mixed in with the lizard brain thinking.) Even if there is a chain of cause and effect, a major error happens along the way: we discount the importance of B, C, D, and so on. We ignore them.
Instead, I urge 2D thinking. Solving JTBD is understanding relationships and connections between ideas. A map is a better framework. Fill in areas for empathy, cost, demographics, and so forth. This way you won’t discount anything you document. Eventually you’ll understand the situation in more detail, and how to approach the solution.
Challenge 4: Where Do Attributes Belong?
The object? The situation? The person? The job? It can be confusing which attributes belong where.
I don’t have a sound explanation for this challenge yet, but so far I have taken a similar approach to Challenge 2: it doesn’t really matter as long as your documenting, contemplating, and testing.