by Jack Martin Leith

Jobs-to-be-Done Theory

Jobs-to-be-Done Theory was originated by Anthony (Tony) Ulwick, the founder and CEO of Strategyn, as part of his firm’s proprietary Outcome Driven Innovation® method. Clayton Christensen subsequently coined the term “Jobs-to-be-Done” and popularised the theory in his bestseller, The Innovator’s Solution.

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JOBS-TO-BE-DONE THEORY is comprised of a group of principles or tenets that form a foundation for making marketing more effective and innovation more predictable by focusing on the customer’s job-to-be-done. The theory is based on the notion that people buy products and services to get a “job” done. Jobs Theory goes on to say that by understanding in detail what that “job” entails, companies are far more likely to create and market solutions that will win in the marketplace.

The core tenets of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory are summarized as follows:

  1. People buy products and services to get a “job” done.
  2. Jobs are functional, with emotional and social components.
  3. A Job-to-be-Done is stable over time.
  4. A Job-to-be-Done is solution agnostic.
  5. Success comes from making the “job”, rather than the product or the customer, the unit of analysis.
  6. A deep understanding of the customer’s “job” makes marketing more effective and innovation far more predictable.
  7. People want products and services that will help them get a job done better and/or more cheaply.
  8. People seek out products and services that enable them to get the entire job done on a single platform.
  9. Customer needs, when tied to the job-to-be-done, make innovation predictable.
Source: What Is Jobs-to-be-Done? by Tony Ulwick, founder of Strategyn.
I prefer Alan Klement’s interpretation of Jobs-to-be-Done to the version advanced by Tony Ulwick. In my view, Alan Klement’s approach shows more humanity and gets closer to the truth about why people choose a particular product or service in preference to alternatives. I recommend Alan Klement’s insightful article, Know the Two — Very — Different Interpretations of Jobs to be Done, as well as his book, When Coffee and Kale Compete.

I had known about Jobs to be Done (JTBD) for a few years but Christensen’s “Milkshake” case study never really resonated with me. Neither did Ulwick’s books about his laborious ODI method. When I stumbled across “When Coffee and Kale Compete” back in late 2016, things changed dramatically. The book was a real eye-opener. For the first time, I understood what Jobs theory was about—discovering what progress humans are looking to make in their lives and how they pull in solutions (products and services) to help them get to where they want to be. Alan’s clear and concise writing style makes this comprehensive book easily digestible. From the theory’s origins to the description of its principles, the case studies from the interviews with entrepreneurs and the practical tips to get started, this book will help you progress.

Rene Bastijans, a partner in Revealed.
When Coffee and Kale Compete

Further reading

Clayton Christensen: The Theory of Jobs To Be Done, on Harvard Business School website (no paywall)

The Core Tenets of Jobs-to-be-Done Theory, by Tony Ulwick, on Medium

JTBD.info | hosted by Alan Klement

Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”, by Clayton M. Christensen, Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon, and David S. Duncan, on Harvard Business Review website (paywall)

Jobs-to-be-Done: Theory to Practice, a free e-book by Anthony W. Ulwick (signup required)

The Value Proposition Canvas

The Value Proposition Canvas is a tool and process created by Alex Osterwalder, the founder of Strategyzer and the principal originator of the Business Model Canvas.

Here is the Value Proposition Canvas:

Value Proposition Canvas
  • Gains represent the value the customer wishes to experience.
  • Pains represent the anti-value the customer wishes to avoid.

Read more about value and anti-value

You can download a large-format Value Proposition Canvas in pdf form via the Strategyzer website (email provision required) here.


Although I mostly talk about value and anti-value, there are times when the snappier gains and pains make things more readily understandable.