Do you know what is the most common mistake in dealing with your business? Focus on the product and not on the needs. McDonald's also teaches us this with its milkshakes.

Having to increase sales, McDonald's executives focused on the product by increasing its features. However, this caused a drop in sales.

The Mc Donald's team then tried another approach: the focus shifted from "what" (the product) to "why". In fact, monitoring the customers it emerged that the milkshakes were purchased mainly before 7 in the morning, as the only purchase and then go away by car.

Investigating the reasons for this choice, it emerged that the buyers' need was to have something that kept them busy and satiated them until mid-morning. In light of this discovery, McDonald's made some changes: not to the taste of milkshakes, but to the way you could buy them, which had to be faster and easier. In addition, the packaging became more convenient and safer, and the texture of the milkshake was made more viscous, so that customers took longer to finish it. In this way the sales have actually increased a lot.

This example illustrates concretely what is the Job to be done (JTBD) theory, a theory of Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, according to which a user purchases a product or service to solve a specific need.

JTBD, today, is used by the most innovative companies in the world, but anyone can apply its principles to grow their company, evolve products and create new ones or even to make a qualitative leap in their career.

The basic concept is that the consumer / user buys a product or service to solve a specific need, so what is sold (the product) is not really essential, but the results are.

To understand the Job to be Done theory well, it is necessary to define what is meant by Job.

The Job is the work that a person does in a particular circumstance when he tries to change his condition, to improve it or to reach a new one that he simply prefers. In this work he will encounter obstacles and to overcome them and equip himself with the tools he deems most efficient in that particular context.

For those who innovate, understanding the Job means understanding what the most important motivations for customers are when they decide to make progress in their situation.

Successful innovators ask themselves a fundamental question: What drives a customer to buy and use a particular product or service?

The JTBD theory allows us to answer this question in order to define a way to develop new product concepts that can unlock growth even in highly competitive markets, changing the paradigm in identifying opportunities to innovate. The application of the theory shifts the focus from justifying past behaviors with the analysis of historical sales data to creating new market behaviors, developing products and services that are aligned with the real reasons for which they are purchased.

Innovations create a positive impact in the market when they also create it in people's lives because it is precisely in the market that people, in relation to their values ​​and ideals, look for products that allow them to progress and enrich the meaning of their lives.

The JTBD framework

Going into detail, the structure underlying the theory rests on 3 fundamental pillars:


  1. The importance of the context
  2. The definition of the competition
  3. The system of progress

To explain these concepts in a practical way, we borrow the famous example of the drill:

"People don’t want quarter-inch drill bits. They want quarter-inch holes."
(Theodore Levitt)

That is to say the real need of the customer is not to have a drill, but to be able to use it to make the hole in the wall.

The product becomes the means of providing the solution. This conclusion is also the first principle of Lean Thinking: “identifying what is valid for the customer”, that is, putting oneself from his perspective and defining what he perceives as value.


1)    The importance of the context

Do I really need the drill? Probably not… The choice of this product strongly depends on the context.

For example, the texture of the wall, if it is made of brick or plasterboard ... in this case it would be enough for me to use specific Fischer that sink into the wall simply with a screwdriver.

Another variable could be the fact that there may be pipes in the wall and therefore it is not possible to make holes, or the house is rented and the owner would not be too happy with a hole in his wall.

People, therefore, seek in the market how to overcome the obstacle that comes between the current situation and the desired one and do so according to the context in which the obstacle occurs.

2)   The definition of competition

The scenario we have just described brings us to the second pillar of the JTDB theory and that "competition comes from any direction".

In this particular context the drill is not in competition with other drills with different features. It is the useful tool for only one condition, that the wall is brick, that I am allowed to make a hole and that there are no pipes in the wall.

In the other cases it is necessary to choose Fischer for plasterboard, a very powerful glue, an adhesive tape millechiodi, etc., products that come from completely different industries.

The drill manufacturer might think it is a leader in its category by producing a particularly advanced drill but it would be wrong if it measured its competition only between products of the same "type".

If he simply analyzed the sales figures he would think other drills are stealing market share but in reality other industries are offering better solutions to help people in the same job.

3)  The system of progress

As individuals, we innovate to advance along a direction of progress (and thus do better, get better results) in relation to a task we consider important.

Along this direction of improvement we adopt solutions, new in our experience, which help us to progress in the direction we have identified. This happens on an individual level, and this is the reason that pushes us to adopt new solutions.

Companies, on the other hand, have rather different but homogeneous needs for innovation. They innovate to pursue lost competitiveness, or to conquer it. To grow, to stay "on the market", and alive thanks to someone who benefits from the value generated by the company, and reciprocates it.

Adopting the Job To Be Done is particularly useful for several reasons:

highlights the real needs of selected customer targets;
identifies competitors from the customer's point of view, especially those that are not obvious;
innovates products and services by solving problems that do not yet have a solution;
improves the Customer Experience thanks to a greater understanding of the target audience;
All this is information that underlines how this method implies a departure from the pure and simple concept of "necessity". Being able to intercept the social and emotional motivations that push customers to make certain choices leads to the design of better solutions capable of satisfying the most varied needs and expectations.

When the company understands exactly the process underlying the consumer's choice, therefore, what are the jobs that the customer has to do and that can be solved by its products, it will no longer focus only on the development of new features but will begin to understand what valuable services it is able to offer to the customer. After all, on closer inspection, JTBD is a simple method. The most difficult thing for companies is to change perspective and above all approach towards the customer.


For IPREL Progetti these concepts represent a key method of its experience, in particular:

1.By defining their markets around the Job To Be Done:

When leveraging Job To Be Done, the market in which the product is launched is not defined by the latter, but becomes the executor of the work that customers will be able to complete by choosing to purchase it.

2. Helping clients complete the entire job:

People don't want to stockpile different products and services to achieve their goals. They want a product that helps them do the whole job. The key to success is understanding, from the customer's point of view, what the whole job is and making that job the focal point of value creation.

3. By focusing R&D efforts to improve the way customers do their jobs:

The Job To Be Done theory demonstrates that the more R&D investments are made to help clients get better jobs, the more quality ROI is achieved.

The goal is to identify different directions of progress and propose ever new solutions that support it, that pull along the same direction in which individuals / customers - in their own way - are already pushing, because the needs of customers may not change but the progress, study and technology lead to ever-changing solutions and potentials.

Ruota il tuo device.