Summarizing Job To Be Done Theory

Over the past several months, I’ve found myself explaining Job To Be Done theory (JTBD) to friends, colleagues, and strangers, and each time I’ve learned more about how to summarize it. I wanted to gather all my thoughts into a concrete article so that in the future when I’m attempting to explain JTBD, I can just link them to this. I hope you find this valuable too.

Job To Be Done theory states that all consumers hire a product or service to do a job for them. Marketers and businesses should thus segment not based on demographics or psychographics, but on the situation a consumer is in where he or she attempts to complete a job. Brands who get this build a product or service around that singular job to be done. They put their entire company’s weight towards it, and become what’s known as a “purpose brand”. When you think quick furniture you can put in your compact car, who do you think of? It was probably IKEA. Its brand immediately popped into your head because it’s purpose-driven.

IKEA, as mentioned above, is a great first example. It has never been copied because it doesn’t segment based on demographics or income or whatever else. It re-segmented the furniture buying market by focusing on a singular job: quickly furnishing a room/apartment/house with well designed products. The entire company is integrated towards that end. Manufacturing, shipping, catalogs, websites, even the buying experience. And don’t forget about the brand-famous home assembly process. You can learn more about Clayton Christensen‘s insight on IKEA in this 5-minute video.

The “milkshake example” is the quintessential moment where Christensen and his colleagues flushed out the theory. It’s the most widely talked about anecdote available. This 5-minute video of Clayton giving a snazzy lecture recaps it.

This HBR article gives a good overview of how the theory is used to re-segment markets. It also includes an original explanation of the milkshake example.

Bob Moesta is one of the initial pioneers of the theory. He runs a consultancy called The Rewired Group, and has a list of resources. This Forbes article gives a quick example of one of his most famous anecdotes to explain the theory.

Bob and Chris Spiek give an excellent overview of JTBD put up against how people buy homes in this short seven-minute video.

I have purchased the two major HBR and MIT articles Clayton published introducing the theory in grand scale. I encourage you to pick up a copy.

Finally, for the more adventurous, Horace Dediu hosted Bob on his Critical Path podcast. An excellent hour-long discussion ensued that recapped many of the stories above, as well as additional insight. It’s very engaging, enlightening, and the best teaching tool for the theory. But it is an hour.

The Path Not Chosen

I used to be a Path fanboy. It became the first application which got right everything other social networks got wrong:

  • There was zero concern about who would see what.
  • It allowed me to connect with my tech savvy friends yet finally include my mother and mother-in-law, who will never sign up for anything except an email address.
  • It removed all noise social networks typically inject. Instead, it’s only the most important moments in life.
  • It added sound to life casting, which invokes a more emotional memory.
  • Using Path was so ridiculously easy. Take a picture or 10-second video, pick a group of nouns (people, place, and thing), and you’re done.
  • And, most importantly, it made viewing past moments easy. You ever notice how anything you create in Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or whatever is impossibly lost? They are moments in time that are digested and thrown away within minutes. Forgotten forever. Good luck trying to find anything. (This is why Facebook is making a push to the “timeline” feature—it realizes it has no time axis, which I’ve called the “z-axis” to its social graph for years.) Path made it so I could browse these important moments in genius ways.

Recently, Path upgraded to a second version. It has been heralded as a design masterpiece. I think it has wrecked the magic.

They are attempting to be more like Foursquare, Facebook, and the like. The level of noise is absurd. I could care less about when someone went to sleep or where. I could care less what song they are listening to (I have social music services or personal conversation for that). I could care less about integration with other social networks. I could care less about the passive “check in” system a la Foursquare, which basically creates a moment only scoped to the “place” noun, and does it automatically whenever you check Path.

Path is about the simple capture of life’s most amazing moments, an easy way to share them regardless of digital divide, tight privacy, and easy access to those moments sometime in the future. Version is lost this vision.

And, regrettably, Version 2 is buggy as heck. I haven’t been able to post a moment since updating because the app crashes. This is so sad that yesterday at my extended family christmas, my mother and grandmother both asked “why they don’t get those cool emails anymore with the fun pictures”. Path has changed their lives too.

I would have paid $/mo for the old Path. Now, they are just another also-ran social network who lost what made them magical.

The Economics Of Titles

Titles can be used as a quick way to gain insight to the importance of regulation within economics.

Now that more entrepreneurs than ever are young, free to call themselves legitimate, and can quickly create a business for next to nothing, many self-proclaimed titles float about.

Today, I was researching a new product—which shall remain nameless out of respect—because I liked some of the marketing and design I saw. Poking around their site, I found some information on the folks behind it. When I research companies like this, I always hunt for the “About Us” section because I love seeing names and faces and finding out where the contributors are located. Much insight is gleaned from how they describe themselves and the business.

Well, this particular start-up had three people listed. Obfuscated out of kindness:

  • John Smith – CEO and Co-founder
  • Tim Rose – COO and Co-founder
  • Eric Brown – CTO and Co-founder

All three guys were younger than 23 years old. This was their first job. I have tremendous respect for their desire to take on starting a business, and frankly it looks pretty cool, but they are a prime example of how titles are becoming irrelevant. Specifically, title weight or prestige is becoming cloudy.

When anyone can call themselves a C-level executive, the meaning of a title deteriorates. Much like the old joke goes how everyone at a bank is a vice president, the tech start-up scene has gotten to the point where a title means nothing to me. More so, if I see a 21-year-old call himself a CMO, I’m closer to discrediting that he “gets it” rather than be impressed.

In a regular economy, market correction would occur. But the normal rules don’t apply here, so regulation is needed. A trusted, central authority is needed to disperse officialdom. (VeriSign is a real life example.)

Quick disclaimer: I can sympathize with the necessary requirement for a title with things like contracts, fundraising, marketing and so forth. My title at HarQen is technically “Director of Product Development”—but I refuse to introduce myself by that unless absolutely required to. Instead, I prefer to explain what I do, as evidence from my bio. With that said, I hope no double standard has been made. I am simply commenting on an observation I have.