Dive deep into a valuable tool for product managers
In this discussion we are learning more about the power and use of Jobs-to-be-Done with Bob Moesta.
Bob is an innovator, entrepreneur, and the co-creator of the Jobs-to-be-Done Theory to investigate consumers’ motivations and decision-making processes. He also co-founded the Re-Wired Group, which helps companies repeatedly innovate and reliably predict success. He is also a Research Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute.
Bob has had amazing mentors and many accomplishments. I’m sure you’ll find this discussion valuable.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[1:54] How did you get involved in Jobs-to-be-Done?
I’ve been breaking things for a long time and building things for the past 35 years. As I was building products, I would get marketing reports that told me who the customers were but wouldn’t tell me why they were doing what they were doing. One of my mentors, Dr. Deming, told me nothing is random; everything is caused; we need to understand why people buy what they buy. From that perspective, I started to understand the underlying causality behind why people buy something or do something new. I worked with Rick Pedi to make Jobs-to-be-Done a method and then another of my mentors, Clay Christensen, who made it a theory.
Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) is a methodology based on the premise that people don’t buy products; they hire them to do jobs. It helps us understand the struggling moments that cause people to do something different. To solve problems, you need to see the big picture.
[7:22] What’s an example of a time you used JTBD?
When I was a VP of sales and marketing in the house building industry, I realized that our features looked like everyone else’s features and we could apply the JTBD methods to understand this business differently. We built homes for first-time home buyers, divorced families with kids, and downsizers. I asked, What causes someone to decide today’s the day they’re going to sell their house and move into one of my condos? The product is irrelevant. The important thing is to know what the customer wants, regardless of how we solve it.
Understand people’s context, desired outcome, and the struggling moment that causes them to want to change something. JTBD helps us understand the forces of progress, anxieties, friction, and habit that are pushing and pulling people, and the phases they go through of having a first thought, passively looking for something new, actively looking, and deciding.
When I was interviewing home buyers, I learned that a big friction point was getting rid of stuff to downsize. To decrease friction, we added two years of storage and a place to sort the stuff at the clubhouse, and increased sales 22%. We also provided crews that would fix people’s houses so they could sell. I realized I wasn’t really a builder; I was a mover. By making these changes, we went from 4% market share to 14% market share.
One of my mentors, Dr. Taguchi, said, There is way more that we don’t know than what we know, and don’t ever forget it. He taught me to always talk to consumers and understand their underlying causal mechanisms.
[14:01] What are the jobs of Snickers and Milky Way?
Snickers and Milky Way are both chocolate candy bars with almost all the same ingredients, except Snickers has peanuts. You would think they compete, but we found the candy bars get hired in very different contexts for very different outcomes. When people eat Snickers, it’s typically because they have work to do and are running out of energy, and they want something small and quick to eat. People almost always eat Milky Way alone and very slowly after something emotional happens. Snickers satisfies physically. Milky Way helps people feel better emotionally.
[18:53] How do we apply JTBD?
Start with framing the fundamental question of what you’re trying to answer. We start with 15-20 questions, then boil them down to one core question. For example, “What causes people to move from the house they’ve lived in for 20+ years to a new condo?” The question can be about a product, a group of consumers, or a struggling moment.
Next, we recruit people who have tried and successfully and unsuccessfully solved the problem. We conduct hour-long interviews with these people, asking questions that help us really get at what people mean and understand their actions.
After each interview, we debrief and codify the causal mechanisms—pushes and pulls—that made them try to solve the problem. We start to see patterns of the different outcomes people want in different contexts. We use nearest neighbor analysis to understand how many unique stories we have. Now that we understand the jobs people are hiring a product to do, we decide what we want to do.
[24:31] In your interview, how do you identify why people do what they do?
Have an empathetic perspective; be able to see the world from their side. Most consumers can only talk about a problem without having any idea of the solution. We need to understand the language they use, instead of making everyone learn our language. People sometimes lie to themselves about why they did something. Discover the more complicated thread behind their decisions. Learn to unpack the cake layer. If someone says they want it to be easier or faster, ask, What does that mean? What outcomes do you get by having it be that way? Spend time unpacking down to the actions, outcomes, and context that cause people do to things.
[27:59] How many interviews should we do?
You don’t need to do a huge number. I would rather do three or four iterations of 10 than 40 or 50, because at some point you start to hear the patterns. I usually do rounds of 10-12.
We then cluster the data and see which people gave similar answers. Analyze and then aggregate.
Action Guide: Put the information Bob shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Connect with Bob on LinkedIn
- Check out Bob’s book Demand-Side Sales 101 on Amazon
- Learn more about interviews on Bob’s YouTube Channel
- Listen to Jobs-to-be-Done Radio
- Check out Clay Christensen’s Competing Against Luck on Amazon
- Listen to TEI 057 about Jobs-to-be-Done with Chris Spiek
“Context creates value and contrast creates meaning.” – Bob Moesta
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.