Product Strategy

Helping Customers Make Progress

An Interview with Alan Klement

Jonathan Savage

October 17, 2018

Here at Connected, we recently invited entrepreneur and innovation consultant Alan Klement to deliver a keynote speech and fireside chat at our Elevate Product conference. (You can watch those presentations here.)

My team was so animated by Alan’s discussion around “Jobs To Be Done” that they compiled a number of follow-up questions. Alan generously agreed to answer them…

Jonathan: Jobs To Be Done looks at how customers “hire” a product to do a job. But a lot of JTBD case studies are actually about switching moments between products already in the market — moments where customers “fire” one product and start using another. If I want to develop a new product, though, how can I use Jobs To Be Done to test it?

Alan: No matter what, you have to start with the current state of things. You have to understand how the market is working today, so that when you design your new product, it can plug into that system. Does it make sense to introduce a 2010 iPhone back in 1990? It’s an amazing innovation, but it’s plugging into the wrong system.

So first you need to look at existing market behavior and understand the causal mechanisms behind why people are buying certain products, what they do and don’t like about particular products, and what better future they are trying to create for themselves. And that kind of research is still done through “switch interviews.”

Does it make sense to introduce a 2010 iPhone back in 1990? It’s an amazing innovation, but it’s plugging into the wrong system.

Forming that picture allows you to imagine a better job to be done, a new type of progress you can deliver customers. Then you can start to ideate solutions that deliver that.

Fireside Chat at Elevate Product 2018.

Jonathan: Why has Jobs To Be Done theory gained so much attention lately?

Alan: It’s a catchy thing to say, for starters. And Clayton Christensen and Harvard have done a lot of good promotion around it. I also think Bob Moestadid a really great job. Bob and Chris Spiek from the Rewired Group got the ball rolling with their switch workshops and JTBD podcast five or six years back, where they were conducting switch interviews online.

Because what Bob was revealing in those interviews was a totally new type of market data, this idea that people are shopping because they’re trying to make some change in their lives. They articulated and demonstrated this desire for progress it in a really concrete way.

People are shopping because they’re trying to make some change in their lives.

I think that word, “progress,” has been a really big reason why Jobs To Be Done has gained popularity. We’re not just talking about user needs here, we’re talking about progress. This idea of improving one’s life or making a change is a core human desire.

Jonathan: I also think that for people inside organizations, Jobs To Be Done is an effective debate settler. When there are a whole bunch of opinions in a room, JTBD gets people to rally around this idea that we’re about delivering progress to the customer. So it comes down to “this is our customer’s view of progress” versus “that’s your opinion about our business needs.” Do we want to deliver progress to our customers or do we want to deliver progress to our vanity?

Alan: Totally.

Jonathan: What do you think has been the most misunderstood aspect of Jobs theory?

Alan: So looking online right now, there are two different definitions of the word “job.” The first is a paid position of regular employment, and the second is a task or piece of work. That introduces a lot of confusion right there. Because the term Job To Be Done is meant to allude to this first idea of a company hiring an employee to do work for the company. That’s why we use the language of “hire” and “fire.”

So just as a company might hire and fire an employee, a consumer will hire and fire the product. The employee does the work, but the employer enjoys the benefits. And in the context of innovation, that translates to: the productdoes the work, while the consumer enjoys the benefits. That’s the critical thing that JTBD is trying to bring to our attention, and why it’s important not to see jobs in that second sense of “work.” People don’t want to do work. They want benefits.

We’re not just talking about user needs here, we’re talking about progress. This idea of improving one’s life or making a change is a core human desire.

A lot of people, though, when they hear the word job, they think about that second definition. So they think, Oh there’s a job to be done, and that means that I, the consumer, want to carry out some task or activity, like getting from point A to point B or listening to music. But that’s not right. Tasks and activities don’t describe benefits, they describe work. But we humans are lazy. We don’t want to do work, we just want the benefits. That’s why we hire the product to do the work for us.

No one wants to “use” your product, they just want the benefits.

Jonathan: Often JTBD interviews are focused on how an individual can make progress. But how can a group or even an organization align around a job? How could say, HR, align under a common Job To Be Done?

Alan: I once replied to a tweet from Alex Osterwalder from Strategyzer that speaks to this almost perfectly, I wonder if you can put it in.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">When discovering Jobs to be Done within businesses, you need to talk to &quot;Job stakeholders&quot;<br><br>If you study users only, you miss all the business outcomes your B2B solution should deliver<br><br>(Because every stakeholder is trying to make progress in a different way) <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/jtbd?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#jtbd</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/jobstobedone?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#jobstobedone</a> <a href="https://t.co/TOzslMBnIR">https://t.co/TOzslMBnIR</a></p>&mdash; Alan Klement (@alanklement) <a href="https://twitter.com/alanklement/status/1047835148044181504?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 4, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

So when it comes to designing a JTBD for an organization, it’s important to remember that there are different people who are going to be touching the product you make for them. So you need to talk to different types of people and understand the type of progress they are each hoping to achieve.

I’ll use the CRM tool Pipedrive as an example, and there’s a good video on it too which I can share.

When we conducted interviews, we learned about the progress that individual salespeople were hoping to make, that sales managers we’re hoping to make, and that senior executives we’re hoping to make with their sales process. And they were all different.

The salespeople said something like “all I really care about is getting more deals,” because they get paid on commission, “so just help me close more deals.” But the managers all said, “my responsibility is to make sure that the whole sales team is working well, so help me figure out what sales people are underperforming, who needs help, who I need to let go,” that kind of stuff. And senior execs, finally, they were like, “we want to make sure that we are doing all that we can to develop a revenue-generating machine. I want to make sure that, when I go to investors or to a board of directors, I can communicate what our sales strategy is, what our sales pipeline is like, that I can show them all the figures and revenue and where we need to improve.”

No one wants to “use” your product, they just want the benefits.

So these were the different types of progress that a CRM needed to deliver to the business. Because at the end of the day, it’s the business that’s buying the product. There might be people inside making decisions and affecting how that business buys the product, but the business itself is consuming it.

Alan presenting at Elevate Product 2018.

Jonathan: Innovation is defined in so many different ways. I’ve heard “creating demand that didn’t exist before,” I’ve heard “delivering the future,” and there are at least a dozen others. It would be nice to align on a definition. In your mind, what’s the most eloquent definition of innovation you’ve ever heard?

I would start by asking “what’s the goal of having innovation defined?” As you suggested, maybe it’s to help us come to some agreement. But we also need a definition that will help us serve a business purpose and ultimately create revenue. Jared Spool had one definition along the lines of “adding value that didn’t exist before.” Okay, great. We could all sit around and create value for our customers, but if they’re not buying more of it or we’re not getting more people to buy it, is that really helping us? If the definition of innovation is supposed to help a company, then it should allude to growth in some way.

People focus on consumer desires, but people also have constraints that prevent them from achieving those desires. That’s where Jobs To Be Done comes in.

One definition I like, however, is “helping consumers overcome constraints.” People focus on consumer desires, but people also have constraints that prevent them from achieving those desires. That’s where Jobs To Be Done comes in, I think.

Elevate Product was full of great presentations and useful insights and I was lucky I got to be a part of it. Check out our presentation videos here.

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