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Jobs to be Done: Theory to Practice

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Why do so many innovation projects fail? What are the root causes of failure? How can they be avoided? Since 1990, Tony Ulwick has pioneered an innovation process that answers these questions. In 1999, Tony introduced Clayton Christensen to the idea that “people have underlying needs or processes in their lives, that they are addressing in some way right now”—an insight that was to become Jobs-to-be-Done Theory . For 25 years, Ulwick and his company, Strategyn , have helped over 400 companies, applying Jobs-to-be-Done Theory in practice with a success rate of 86% —a 5-fold improvement. “Ulwick has taken the guesswork out of innovation,” says the ‘father of modern marketing,’ Philip Kotler , S. C. Johnson Distinguished Professor of International Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. “He has done this by introducing us to Jobs-to-be-Done theory, and converting it to practice using his rigorous innovation process known as Outcome-Driven Innovation . I call him the Deming of Innovation because, more than anyone else, Tony has turned innovation into a science,” adds Kotler. LEARN
- Why companies fail at innovation and how to avoid critical mistakes.
- How to employ the Jobs-to-be-Done Theory Needs Framework to categorize, define, capture, and prioritize customer needs.
- A Jobs-to-be-Done Growth Strategy Matrix to categorize, understand, and employ the 5 strategies that drive growth.
- Outcome-Based Segmentation : how does it create new opportunities?
- The details of the innovation process known as Outcome-Driven Innovation . It ties customer-defined metrics to the customer’s Job-to-be-Done, transforming every aspect of opportunity discovery, marketing and innovation.
- The Language of Job-to-be-Done – the syntax and lexicon of innovation.

171 pages, Kindle Edition

First published October 28, 2016

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Anthony W. Ulwick

4 books21 followers

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5 stars
194 (24%)
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296 (37%)
3 stars
220 (27%)
2 stars
73 (9%)
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16 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 70 reviews
Profile Image for Doug Garnett.
Author 3 books12 followers
July 23, 2019
For perspective, I’m a specialist with innovative products and have spent over 35 years working these topics.

There are a host of problems in this book - starting with a claim of over 80% success based on the tiny number of 21 projects (of which 17 did well). When I recounted this to a research friend of mine, she recommended I immediately abandon the book - because you should NEVER calculate and report stats on a tiny number like 21.

Still, given the current hype around this book and theory of innovation, I felt I needed to dig deeper despite my distaste for such mis-leading packaging.

Net out, this book is based on a solid idea that's been around for centuries - that innovations need to be based on studying real customers and their world. Past that point it goes wrong at nearly every step.

I imagine Ulwick to be a classic back room engineer suddenly wide eyed at discovering that talking to customers can help you out. For those of use who have spent 35 years developing projects based on customer feedback it's rather annoying - especially the amateur mistakes he makes.

Ulwick claims to offer an ironclad process to know everything there is to know about customers (never possible) and to perfectly analyze that to make products that succeed every time. That's entirely false and entirely impossible.

What seems to be going on with the book, though, is that innovators are becoming enamored with the idea of offering their CEO's the appearance of an ironclad future. Except, the only way to guarantee results is to limit risk and step away from the truly exciting ideas that might return huge profits.

My net analysis of the JTBD theory is that it will drive projects into narrow corridors of operation where tiny advantages are gained and far larger potentials are ignored. (His Bosch circular saw example features just such incremental nice things to add - but things with little market power.)

So read this book with skepticism if you have to read it. Or simply walk away if you don't.
Profile Image for Simon Eskildsen.
215 reviews969 followers
April 3, 2019
Today’s most popular approaches to innovation fall into one of two types: those that begin with a focus on solutions (or ideas) and those that begin with a focus on customer needs.

That about sums up the book and you can guess where it goes from there. This book is about everything I love and hate about business books: interspersed, great insights, lots of filling, and ridden with not-so-humble showcasing of how incredible this framework and their consultancy are (it would've been more credible if they found examples of people who use the framework who are not them). The first chapter (or two) is basically just Mr. Ulwick talking about how life-changing this framework is, ugh, come on. Serve it to me and let me be the judge.

So, let me compress this into "Jobs to be Done", the good parts! The title of the book is about the author's desire to get people to frame problems as "what job is the customer trying to do?" rather than "what does the solution do?" Exemplified (most likely somewhere else in the book entirely, since it's not well-organized) an analogy I have to give some points for: If you're a stove-top kettle-maker you might say you're building product to boil water. That's not the "job to be done" though, by your customers. They're mostly making hot beverages, like tea and coffee. If you don't think this way, you open yourself up to Keurig. Okay, cool. That's a good way to rebottle the wisdom of going to the 'root cause' rather than 'proximate cause.' Not 200-page good, but decent.

The other thing in the book that I liked is this framework that new products fit into. That's a good way to think about it, kudos. Served here without the 50 pages that likely explain it in the book:

Then there's another few dozen pages about this way where they go out and talk to customers and graph it in a way that look scientific. That's probably overkill. The important lesson is to define what people are actually trying to do and failing to do, rather than trying to weasel your solution into a customer demand. Not an uncommon insight, often praised, rarely done well (sadly). “people don’t want a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” If you go out and chat with people, note it down, and count them in a spreadsheet I think you're in a decent spot here. You don't have to make it look as scientific as the book preaches, I think, and they don't do a good job of justifying the value or share any tools to do their analysis with. Minus points.

So, 2 stars because there's a few quite good insights and I didn't hate myself reading it (1 star)--but it's every product-development wisdom wrapped in new vocabulary with so much fluff that reads more like show-off than easy for others to practise. I don't doubt their methods work, but they're not comparing apples-to-apples, they're comparing themselves (it seems) against doing nothing because this is not revolutionary stuff.
Profile Image for Jose Papo.
260 reviews133 followers
November 14, 2016
This is the best book on Jobs to be Done since the first Anthony Ulwick book "What Customers Want". I always waiting eagerly for a new edition or new book from Ulwick, as his Outcome Driven Innovation process is the most systematic and clear way to apply JTBD in real life. "What Customers want" was written in 2005 and after that Ulwick wrote many different articles with more steps and evolution of his ODI process. The last book from Clayton Christensen "Competing against Luck" is also good, but it's more about the why and what of JTBD. If you want to know the why, what and how you definitely should read this book. It was an epiphany for me to read this book and I hope Anthony writes even more details about all his methods.
Profile Image for Kian Lavi.
82 reviews2 followers
February 26, 2020
Everyone at work talks about Jobs to be Done. A coworker finally gave it to me, and I decided to use it as the basis for some big research we were doing at work.

The substance is good, but the book is overkill at 180+ pages. They manage to summarize the whole book into a few pages in the Appendix, and this is honestly all that most patient people need.

The real sell of the book is the stories they tell about working with clients, but it all sounds a bit advertisement-like at some I also feel like this book is a big retread of a lot of my foundational learnings as a designer and researcher, just wrapped up in a pretty bow for the business world. This whole book could have just as easily been a Medium article.
Profile Image for Nick Toumpelis.
8 reviews3 followers
February 10, 2019
If you want to follow a more practical approach to Jobs-to-Be-Done theory, backed by a solid process and actual results, this is the book to start with. The process is a bit heavy, and often times more suitable for a big organisation, it can easily by trimmed down to match the needs of a startup looking for product-market fit.

Highly recommended.
Profile Image for E.
47 reviews2 followers
July 26, 2022
"Business"! What an intellectual discipline...
Profile Image for Tery Spataro.
Author 13 books17 followers
January 23, 2021
Anthony Ulwick explains a new lens to understand the customers of a product or service. There is strong rigor to the application of quantitative and qualitative research to uncover the process of "the job to be done". The procedure to achieving the findings and developing the strategy initially is lengthy. But once taken there is a greater likelihood of achieving growth.

Entrepreneurs and innovators will benefit from reading Jobs to be Done. Keep in mind this is not a how-to book on the research methodology, it is a business, operations, and marketing undertaking prior to new product development or innovation. One of the important objectives is getting the key stakeholders and the company on the same page of the new lens from the perspective of the end-user of the product or service.

Do not confuse Clayton Christensen's definition of "jobs to be done" "People don’t simply buy products or services, they ‘hire’ them to make progress in specific circumstances" with Anthony Ulwick definition "a lens through which you can observe markets, customers, needs, competitors, and customer segments differently, and by doing so, make innovation far more predictable and profitable." They are cohorts but use different lenses to define the theory of jobs to be done.
Profile Image for Ben.
310 reviews
May 21, 2021
He’s not wrong. But as someone considering a job in product, I would not expect to be hired if I did not intuitively grasp 99% of what this book focuses on codifying.

“Aim at satisfying your client’s metrics when designing a solution.” That’s it, now go read Marty Cagan instead.
Profile Image for Guru.
183 reviews20 followers
July 16, 2021
The first thing you have to realize is that this "book" is entirely for content marketing, freely available on the company's website. Keep that in mind and you may figure out which parts to take seriously and discount the overly prescriptive tone of the book.

JTBD by itself is an interesting approach, which comes naturally to anyone who has built anything to satisfy a need of their customers. That's the core of any business. What Prof. Christensen, Ulwick, Klement, and other authors do is articulate it better than most of us. In addition, there is invariably some set of acronyms that are followed by ®, ™, ©, etc. Unsurprisingly, there are different camps, each claiming to know the "one true way". Often, they keep fighting with each other, perhaps trying to establish their position in the market. It appears that there are a lot of people out there who didn't get the "age of scarcity is over" memo.

The language in this book is so abstract that by the time you extract the core information out, you realize there is absolutely nothing new here except some new labeling. It is hard to distill knowledge with examples like the famous Christensen's milkshake example, which is overused and completely different from what most people would want. I am sure all these companies and these authors are absolutely brilliant and can really turn things around for the companies that hire them, but the literature is too much of old wine in an old bottle with a flashy new label.

That said, if you are just about to start your career in product management, you may want to take a peek at this. It will serve as a good introduction. Also, check out Intercom on Jobs to be Done, which is probably more of an applied memoir of JTBD.
Profile Image for Ashley.
Author 1 book3 followers
January 20, 2020
A 2.5, but I read it for work, so I'm rounding down. This text clumsily, self-importantly gets the job done (see what I did there?) in contextualizing outcomes-driven innovation. If your organization is adopting this approach, it's worth a read to better understand the buzzwords folks are tossing around like ODI will save us all. I did like tidbit that innovation could be as simple as reframing messaging, not a product overhaul. I did not like the utter disdain for the art of intuition, or the reliance on surveys and focus groups. What gets left out if people can't articulate what they want or the survey is badly designed? Maybe my teensy operation has an advantage in that I help develop the product and also have oodles of casual conversations with decision makers and end users. They don't overthink; they just react to the product. And it's good information that doesn't take 18 steps to decipher, a job map, consultants, and so forth. Whatever. I'm just glad I'm finished and can pass the book on to the next poor soul in my organization.
6 reviews
July 8, 2018
Very insightful. Two small issues:

1) the book is clearly a way for the author to generate leads for their business. Nothing wrong with that, but the last chapters had too many distracting ads-like endorsement for the author's consulting;

2) the lessons are not directly applicable to the smallest startups - the process one is supposed to follow has too many steps and some of the individual steps are extremely complex and could alone fill entire books (e.g: recruit respondents for a statistically-significant survey with 300-1200 people).

I say these are small issues because they can be ignored and the reader can still takeaway many important insights about the author's proposed outcome-driven innovation.
Profile Image for Jonathan Hall.
3 reviews1 follower
December 27, 2016
A reasonable introduction to the Jobs-to-be-Done theory, and a good reference (especially the last section of the book). But it left me wanting something more concrete, especially as a one-person startup.
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 6 books8 followers
April 25, 2020
This book can be summarized as "build things that solve customer needs", which seems like a fairly obvious solution to innovation. Beyond that the book is dry and a marketing tool for the author's company. I didn't get anything out of it.
Profile Image for Michael Graber.
Author 4 books11 followers
July 9, 2018
Love the method but this book oversells it as a science. In my experience it is a creative endeavor of value creation—part analysis and part hunch. The tone is dry as burned toast.
1 review2 followers
July 4, 2019
This book was part of the journey I've been on for the last few years trying to better understand disruption with the goal of being a better guide and influencer in business technology. Disruption (ie. change, break, create disorder in) is everywhere today. Giant companies have no vaccine to the effects, so people who can better articulate how to defend and attack with it have a leg up in business strategy. They can better explain Why things happen/happened, and they are more likely to notice similar patterns that emerge representing early investment opportunities.
Vendors of all sorts today are trying to provide "business outcomes" vs. merely (technical) solutions, but how do you actually transform an entire organization to being outcome focused. This book does a great job articulating what that means. I really enjoyed it.

This book Greatly added to my understanding of Jobs Theory. While books like Clay Christensen's "Competing Against Luck" do a great job talking about the theory, they don't go into great detail on how to implement into practice. This book is a great introduction and reference for jobs theory/jobs to be done frameworks. I really enjoyed reading about the author's experiences and the journey to get to this point. I thought the depth of the book was terrific, but it led me to wanting to learn more. Finding more hasn't been all that easy.
I recommend this book to anyone trying to learn more about outcome focused business practices.
Many businesses say they are focusing on providing business outcomes, but most businesses can't articulate how they changed to actually do that. Do you know why? Because it is usually just words, and they haven't done the work to implement the cultural (people & process) change needed to make it real and realize its power.
Profile Image for Diego Eis.
Author 6 books145 followers
August 19, 2019
Jobs-To-Be-Done é um framework completo para todos os produteiros. Essencial é imprescindível para TODOS os Product Managers, principalmente aqueles que adoram a teoria de Métricas e indicadores baseados em comportamentos de usuário.

Pessoas usam serviços ou produtos porque eles têm objetivos a cumprir, necessidades para saciar, problemas para resolver. Podemos chamar essas “necessidades” de Jobs To Be Done.

Geralmente as empresas fazem brainstorms para descobrir quais ideias são ideias para sanar determinadas necessidades dos usuários. O problema é a ordem das coisas: em vez de fazer primeiro o teste em ideias pré-concebidas, devemos encontrar as necessidades dos usuários ao executar determinada tarefa e depois elaborar uma ideia para que essa necessidade seja resolvida

Isso tudo nos leva a tentar entender o progresso que o usuário está tentando percorrer em determinada circunstância, ou seja, o que o usuário está tentando alcançar. Sempre se focando no resultado e qual o processo que o usuário deve fazer no seu produto para alcançar esse resultado.

Profile Image for Phoebe.
1 review
August 27, 2019
Based on my experience in product development in recent years, I found that the hardest part of product development is not from the technical side, but from the design side. Developing a product with high user usage and excellent customer feedback is the goal of all product development teams. Although there are many sound R&D process methodologies, such as Lean or Scrum, they can quickly find problems in development. However, if the product is wrongly designed from the beginning, the streamlined process and high-end technicians will not be able to recover the product failure. The company basically conducts market research at some stage, but in many cases, the data does not reflect the user's needs very well. This book provides a novel methodology from how to determine user needs, dividing requirements into functional, emotional, social, and consumption chain jobs. I do recommend to you who are struggling with finding the PERFECT product required by your boss. This book can definitely open up the idea of what should you create to benefit your user.
Profile Image for Sashko Valyus.
201 reviews9 followers
February 12, 2019
« Ми не купуємо речі чи сервіси, ми наймаємо їх для того щоб виконати певну роботу, в певних умовах, щоб отриматаи бажаний результат» Ось так можна описати підхід JTBD який використовується як в бізнесі так і в дизайн-дослідженнях.

Книга для тих хто хоче зрозуміти для себе що таке Jobs-to-be-Done, як він формується і використовується в процесі інновації. Написанм власне піонером цієї практики. Дуже лаконічна і практична, наполовину її можна вважати cookbook. Практики описані не досить чітко, досить щоб дати уявлення про те який цей процес може бути складний і досить щоб найняти компанію, щоб вона провела цей воркшоп у вас). Загалом хочу похвалити автора за хорошу структуру книги, логічну і лаконічну викладу і рецептуру впровадження у себе в компанїі Outcome Diven Innnovation процесів.

6 reviews
April 18, 2023
Very heavily directed towards consultants as they’re a consultant firm. It had very good topics about innovation and different ways to go about market research. The book can be summarized (in an overly simplified manner) to one line, “Innovation is about uncovering under customer needs and finding solutions to address them”. The contents of the book were good, with proven results to support them, however the way it was written was painful and boring at times where he would ramble for pages in an attempt to establish credibility even though he already has done so at that point in the book. Would not read again but would suggest to others and would definitely reread the last three chapters (30/200) pages and look at the strategyn online guide (10 pages) as it has all the information and visual aids that I found useful.
Profile Image for Rick te Molder.
60 reviews10 followers
May 18, 2018
I stumbled upon this book after reading Clayton Christensen’s Competing Against Luck. If with this book you hope to find a read on innovation and Jobs-to-be-done as engaging as Christensen’s, yet more practical, you will be disappointed. Yes it is more practical, but also significantly dryer. After reading the first half of the book I put it away for six months, before finishing the rest of it in a day or two.

Nevertheless I think the book is brilliant. Or to be more precise, the approach to innovation described in the book is.

Never have I read a step by step approach to innovation that makes so much sense, is so structured, so rooted in scientific theory and so validated in practice. It makes me wonder: why isn’t everybody doing this?
1 review
February 15, 2022
Useful, if you can cope with the tone :(

Useful insights, techniques and examples, by oh my! Does Anthony think a lot of himself! This is a book written by someone so gracious that he is willing to impart his indisputable pearls of wisdom to mere mortals such as the general public. Product innovation is a haphazard minefield, but, luckily for us, he's done all the hard work for us and all we have to do is follow his proven 86-step path to success and glory!
Maybe it's a cultural thing and some readers expect, or even want(?), this kind of hero worship / saviour narrative. Personally, I prefer someone who's a bit more humble and relatable.
However, if you can look past all of that, he has some good points to make.
6 reviews
September 15, 2022
Jobs to be Done is most definitely an interesting theory! Many companies can learn from it and get to some real innovation and solutions that really help an end-user achieve something.

The book itself however? It's more of a commercial for Ulwick, his company and his theories than an actual book.... It's getting annoying how he's throwing out percentages of how well it works, telling the reader how amazing it is... It's like walking into some Tell-sell commercial! It's filled with sources that have no other purpose than to confirm that Ulwick supposedly knows what he's talking about and/or that confirm how brilliant it all is.

So while the theory itself is most definitely great and something more people should be aware of, the book itself is just a horrible read.
Profile Image for Henrik Berglund Berglund.
29 reviews5 followers
August 1, 2017
"Jobs to be done" is a very interesting approach to innovation. Focus on needs and value thinking, All agilists should get a grip on this to make sure product ownership are up to date in your organization.

Ulwick want to stand out as the originator and leader for jobs to be done theory and practise. He seems a bit afraid that Clayton Christenssen and others does not give him credit (and as far as I remember Cristenssen did not in his book on the topic). Sometimes the marketing message for his company is a bit too loud to me.

Ignoring the tope of writing though - After reading three books on the topic, this is the most comperhensive one.
Profile Image for Joanne Griffin.
13 reviews1 follower
January 6, 2023
I find Ulwick's JTBD and ODI models to be really practical and enormously valuable to entrepreneurs. Having worked for a number of years in business transformation and innovation, I have explored many frameworks for managing innovation. Despite the fun and creativity that ideation brings to the table, the JTBD model is by far the most impactful framework if you want to increase your chances of success. It also saves a ton of time for entrepreneurs down the line when drafting a Go-to-Market strategy and product offering. Done right, JTBD can save a ton of time, money and heartache for any entrepreneur.
Profile Image for Daniel Schulte.
323 reviews3 followers
January 29, 2020
This book encourages it's readers to focus on take that customers want perform rather than products they want to use our consume. Oreos are a great example. People might want to eat Oreos because they taste good, but the job they perform can carry between different consumers (a reward for good behavior or a snack to relax aftera hard day). The different type of job that the product is targeting for each consumer can change the way you market, test, package, and even further develop the product in the future.
Profile Image for Mert Doğanlı.
22 reviews2 followers
June 26, 2021
I liked the approach. I have also reviewed the comments and saw that people still complained about customers' needs whereas in the book it is clearly stated that the methodology is not based on customer needs. It makes sense because end user may not be really aware of the exact needs (technical wise).
Anyway, one important point is about the Bosch product innovation; I have checked the product reviews on Amazon and seen that the overall rating is not very high and there are negative feedbacks. So a combination of different methods may increase the customer satisfaction.
Profile Image for Pablo.
Author 1 book39 followers
January 31, 2023
I couldn't get much from this book. It seems targeted at massive companies, it's all very corporate/enterprise and it felt quite vague throughout. The way the book ends, mentioning the course and certifications offered by a company related to the author makes me think a bit or a lot of the goal of this book is to be an ad.

If you are interested in jobs-to-be-done, I'd recommend Competing Against Luck.
Profile Image for Tathagat Varma.
370 reviews47 followers
May 25, 2019
It is commonsensical that an innovation approach based on market, or the outcomes required is more likely to be successful than a wild-west approach where the team decides to pursue whatever they find interesting! But commonsense being rare, it often needs a documented process! So, here is one such book.

The first part is interesting, especially the matrix. But you lose interest as the book progresses.
Profile Image for Jen.
227 reviews
October 18, 2020
Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) theory is really popular with teams doing application/software development right now. JTBD is the framework for putting outcome-driven innovation (ODI) into practice. It seems like a fine framework for prioritizing development work, but I'm not sure it's better than other frameworks.

From a UX perspective, the user-focus is a positive aspect. I suppose if this framework encourages more teams to take the user perspective more seriously, that's a good thing.
Profile Image for Ioannis Papikas.
13 reviews2 followers
December 22, 2020
This is a very fulfilling book that describes the origin story of the jobs to be done framework and the outcome driven innovation strategy.

It's a must have book on the theory behind jbtd and it should accompany every practicioner as an agenda for working your way through your first projects.

It has a lot of theory and less examples. I would prefer to combine theory and case studies in the same chapters to make it easier to follow with solid examples.
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